India's Sensex Completes Second Weekly Gain Amid Thin Trading

  • Nifty 50 volume at about two-thirds of 30-day average
  • Sensex climbs 1.3% this week; GAIL, Bharti best perfomers

India’s benchmark equity gauge completed a second consecutive weekly advance amid volatile trading and low volume before the Christmas weekend.

GAIL India Ltd., the nation’s biggest natural-gas supplier, and Bharti Airtel Ltd., the No. 1 mobile-phone operator, were the top weekly gainers on the S&P BSE Sensex, both rallying more than 6 percent each. Tata Motors Ltd., the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, climbed the most in a week. ICICI Bank Ltd., the largest private lender by assets, fell for the first time in four days. Reliance Infrastructure Ltd., controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, surged the most in four months as it neared sale of its cement units.

About three stocks gained for every two that dropped on the Sensex, which ended the day less than 0.1 percent lower at 25,838.71. It changed directions at least 25 times on Thursday. The gauge advanced 1.3 percent this week. 

The trading volume in stocks on the Nifty 50 Index, which was also little changed, was 35 percent below the 30-day average. Indian bond and currency markets were shut for a holiday Thursday, while all financial markets will be closed Friday for Christmas.

Less Interest

“Given the long weekend and the holiday season, there is less interest in the markets,” Paras Bothra, a Mumbai-based vice president of equity research at Ashika Stock Broking Ltd., said in an interview. “Today, the banks are closed and there will be no settlement, thus we saw lower volume. Traders are unwilling to take undue risks.”

GAIL India increased 1.1 percent, taking the week’s gains to 6.6 percent. Bharti Airtel climbed 1.8 percent to finish the week with a 6.1 percent advance. Tata Motors added 1 percent. ICICI Bank fell 1.5 percent, the most since Dec. 11.

Reliance Infrastructure soared 7.7 percent in the best weekly show since November last year. The company is seeking to sell its cement assets for an enterprise value of about 50 billion rupees ($757 million) in a deal expected to be announced by the end of the year, people familiar with the matter said.

It is in talks with cement makers as well as private equity firms including Blackstone Group LP and Carlyle Group LP, the people said, asking not to be identified because the talks are private. Reliance expects to get 26 billion rupees from the sale with the buyer taking over 24 billion rupee of debt, one of the people said. 

Foreign funds bought a net $92.6 million of Indian stocks on Dec. 22, a fourth day of inflows, making it the longest stretch of purchases since October.

The Sensex has fallen 6 percent this year, heading for its first annual loss since 2011, and trades at 15.5 times projected 12-month earnings. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is valued at a multiple of 11.2.

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