India's Sensex Caps Fourth Weekly Climb as Inflows Gather Pace

  • Sensex set for best month since January 2012 on $2.4b inflow
  • Indian markets closed Thursday, Friday for public holidays

Indian stocks were little changed, with the benchmark index capping a fourth week of advance, before the long weekend amid inflows from overseas investors.

Tata Steel Ltd. rallied to the highest level since June, while Bharti Airtel Ltd., the nation’s top mobile-phone operator, climbed to a five-month high. Reliance Industries Ltd., owner of the world’s largest oil-refining complex, and Lupin Ltd., a drugmaker, were the worst performers on the S&P BSE Sensex.

The 30-stock Sensex was little changed, after erasing an intraday loss of 0.7 percent, with gainers and losers evenly poised at the close. The gauge has climbed 10 percent in March, set for its best monthly gain since January 2012, after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Feb. 29 federal budget pledged to further narrow the fiscal deficit and boost spending on the rural economy. Markets are closed Thursday and Friday for public holidays.

“Investors are cautious before the long weekend," Vivek Mahajan, head of Research at Aditya Birla Money Ltd., said in an interview with Bloomberg TV India. “The market has moved up sharply in the last few days and could top out until we get a trigger that could take it higher. The next trigger could be the RBI policy meeting on April 5."

RBI Policy

The Sensex on Monday climbed above its 100-day moving average for the first time since October as speculation mounted that the Reserve Bank of India will lower borrowing costs after the government pared interest rates on small savings plans on March 18. Overseas funds have bought $2.4 billion of local shares this month, headed for the biggest monthly purchase since January 2015.

“The base case is for a 25-basis point cut, the market would look for more, may be a 50-basis point cut, and guidance from the RBI that they will be cutting rates further,” Adrian Mowat, the chief Asian and emerging-market equity strategist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Hong Kong, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

Reliance Industries tumbled 1.8 percent, ending an eight-day rally, the longest winning run since May 2010. The stock has gained 7.6 percent this month. Lupin lost 1.6 percent, extending this month’s plunge to 13 percent.

Tata Steel climbed 2.4 percent to its highest level since June 1. The shares have rallied 27 percent this month, poised for its best month since January 2012. Bharti Airtel rose to its highest close since Oct. 28.  

The Sensex is trading at 15.4 times 12-month projected earnings, compared with 11.8 for the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

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