India’s benchmark equity index dropped yesterday, set to mark its worst quarter ever, on concern that government efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus and its economic fallout may not be enough.
The S&P BSE Sensex Index slumped 4.6% to 28,440.32 points at the close in Mumbai after adding more than 10% in the previous three sessions. The gauge is set for a quarterly drop of more than 30%, surpassing the previous record of a 28% decline in the quarter through June 1992.
That slide followed India’s steps to cede control over the economy, open up for foreign investment, cut tariffs and devalue its currency, to pull the nation from an unprecedented balance of payments crisis.
Cases of Covid-19 in the world’s second-most populous country have ticked rapidly higher in the past week, raising the alarm over the ability of India, with a fragile health-care system and battered economy, to handle a virus crisis of the magnitude of China or Italy’s. India’s policy makers announced a $22.6bn spending plan and an emergency interest rate cut to shield the economy from a nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the deadly pathogen that is devastating lives and businesses across the world.
The “measures are not sufficient to prop up plummeting growth, or to stimulate demand when the lockdown ends,” Teresa John, an economist at Nirmal Bang Equities wrote in a note on Friday. “The announcements mainly involve reallocation and front-loading of expenditure.”
While India has seen 27 deaths and just over 1,000 cases, experts fear the real tally could be much higher. The NSE Nifty 50 Index declined 4.4%.
Seventeen of 19 sector sub-indexes compiled by the BSE dropped, led by gauges of real estate and financial companies.
Twenty-four of the 30 Sensex members declined. Bajaj Finance and Tata Steel were among the top losers. Consumer staples stocks Nestle India Ltd. and Hindustan Unilever were among the top gainers.
Meanwhile the rupee weakened yesterday against the US dollar, tracking a selloff in domestic equity markets. A broadly stronger US dollar also weighed on the rupee. After opening at 74.85, the rupee fell to 75.63 at day’s low against the USD.
In comparison, the rupee had closed at 74.85 in the previous session.
In yesterday’s session, rupee traded in the range of 75.10 to 75.63, before ending lower at 75.59. The total coronavirus cases in the country has crossed 1,070, according to the latest data released by the government.
“The overall risk sentiment is negative. USD has strengthened across the board. Month-end exporter selling and nationalised banks intervening on behalf of the RBI could cap up side in USDINR intra-day,” said Abhishek Goenka, Founder & CEO, IFA Global.
Indian stock markets came under strong selling pressure today with Sensex ending about 1,400 points in afternoon trade. Weighing on the rupee is record withdrawal from foreign institutional investors this month.
The total net outflow stood at Rs1,12,188 crore in March, which comes after six consecutive months of investment by FPIs since September 2019.
The depositories data showed that a net amount of Rs59,377 crore was pulled out from equities and Rs52,811 crore was withdrawn from the debt segment by foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) between March 2-27.
The rupee has weakened about 6% against the US dollar so far this year, hitting a record low of 76.32 earlier this month.
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