Stocks off to a sombre start in 2018, Sensex drops 244 pts

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Mumbai, Jan 1 (PTI): A late sell-off in auto, banking and IT shares pulled back the benchmark BSE Sensex from record high level to close down by 244 points, its biggest single loss in past one month, on the first trading day of 2018.

Investors preferred to book profits at record highs amid concerns over fiscal slippages and rising crude oil prices and absence of cues from global markets which were closed for the New Year holiday.

The benchmark Sensex touched a low of 33,766.15 before settling lower by 244.08 points, or 0.72 per cent, at 33,812.75. This is the biggest single-day fall since December 1 when the index had lost 316.41.

The 30-share index had closed at an all-time high of 34,056.83 in the last session of 2017 on Friday.

Also, the 50-share Nifty cracked below the 10,500-mark to hit a low of 10,423.10 before settling 95.15 points, or 0.90 per cent down at 10,435.55.

Stocks opened on a weak note and remained range-bound for the better part of the day but an intense sell-off in the last hour of the trade dragged the key indices deep down, brokers said.

Bouts of buying were, however, seen in capital goods, realty, healthcare and consumer durables stocks that capped the losses to some extent.

In the Sensex kitty, TCS emerged as the top loser by falling 1.69 per cent, followed by IndusInd Bank 1.45 per cent and Hindustan Unilever 1.40 per cent.

Other big losers include HDFC Ltd, Tata Steel, ONGC, Adani Ports, ICICI Bank, Reliance Industries, Asian Paint, HDFC Bank, SBI, Kotak Bank and Yes Bank, dropping by up to 1.35 per cent.

Auto stocks such as Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto, M&M, Maruti Suzuki and Hero MotoCorp too came under pressure and lost up to 1.35 per cent after December sales data failed to cheer investors.

Maruti reported a 10 per cent rise in December sales.

“Despite positive auto sales numbers, market started-off the New Year on a cautious note. Lingering concern on fiscal slippages and a sharp up-move in crude prices dampened investor sentiments. Additionally, an expectation of weak monthly manufacturing data tomorrow is adding to the cautiousness,” Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services Ltd, said.

US oil prices had finished above USD 60 a barrel for the first time since June 2015 while Brent North Sea crude for March delivery rose to USD 66.87 a barrel on Friday.

The BSE auto index fell 0.78 per cent, followed by bankex 0.75 per cent, teck 0.65 per cent, IT 0.55 per cent, metal 0.52 per cent, oil & gas 0.46 per cent, FMCG 0.29 per cent, PSU 0.15 per cent and infrastructure 0.13 per cent.

The near-absence of overseas cues meant investors remained directionless, forcing to cut their positions, brokers said.

In contrast, investors indulged in widening their portfolios in the second-line stocks which outperformed the key indices. Small-cap and mid-cap indices closed with gains of 0.26 per cent and 0.08 per cent, respectively.

Globally, most stock markets, including those in Asia and Europe, were closed on Monday.

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