Covid halts bull run as Sensex falls 871 pts; Nifty below 14,650

Covid halts bull run as Sensex falls 871 pts; Nifty below 14,650

Mumbai: Equity benchmarks wilted under widespread selling on Monday as a record single-day jump in COVID-19 cases in the country unnerved investors and fanned fears over the economic recovery.

A sharp plunge in the rupee added to the concerns, traders said.

Investors' wealth tumbled over Rs 2.16 lakh crore at close of trade as markets crashed amid a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in the country.

After plunging over 1,400 points earlier in the day, the 30-share BSE Sensex pared some losses to finish at 49,159.32, down 870.51 points or 1.74 per cent.

Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty sank 229.55 points or 1.54 per cent to 14,637.80.

Bajaj Finance was the top laggard in the Sensex pack, plunging 5.81 per cent, followed by IndusInd Bank, SBI, M&M, Axis Bank, Bajaj Auto and ICICI Bank.

IT stocks stood tall amid the carnage, with HCL Tech leading the gainers' chart with a jump of 3.08 per cent.

TCS, Infosys, Bharti Airtel and Tech Mahindra were the other winners, gaining up to 2.32 per cent.

India recorded an all-time high of 1,03,558 coronavirus infections in a day, pushing the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,25,89,067, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday.

The single-day rise in cases surpassed the earlier peak of 97,894 infections reported on September 17 last year, making it the highest since the pandemic began.

"The market witnessed a huge sell-off today as India's second wave of COVID-19 is getting bigger than anticipated and is expected to ruin the pace of economic recovery. High valuation added further concern due to a possible downgrade in Q1FY22 earnings," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services.

A policy decision in the upcoming Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) announcement and Q4 earnings will define the market volatility in the coming days, he added.

RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das-headed rate-setting panel MPC started its three-day deliberation on the next monetary policy on Monday amid the surge in COVID-19 cases and the government's recent mandate asking the central bank to keep retail inflation around 4 per cent.

The MPC will announce its decision on April 7.

The rise in COVID-19 cases in India is a sobering reminder that challenges to recovery still remain, said Lalitabh Srivastava, AVP research, Sharekhan by BNP Paribas.

The provisional numbers of key banks indicate a consolidating trend in terms of advances growth but encouraging performance on deposit and CASA front, he added.

BSE realty, bankex, finance, auto, consumer durables and capital goods tanked up to 3.62 per cent, while IT, tech, metal and telecom ended in the green.

Broader BSE midcap and smallcap indices fell up to 1.13 per cent.

On the macroeconomic front, India's manufacturing sector activity lost further growth momentum and fell to a seven-month low in March as demand was constrained by the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seasonally adjusted IHS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) fell from 57.5 in February to a seven-month low of 55.4 in March.

Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Seoul and Tokyo ended on a positive note. Markets in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Australia were closed for holidays.

Stock exchanges in Europe were also closed.

Meanwhile, the global oil benchmark Brent crude was trading 2.20 per cent lower at USD 63.43 per barrel.

The rupee declined by 18 paise to close at 73.30 against the US dollar on strong American currency and risk aversion in the domestic market.

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