A build-up in tension linked to geo-political developments gave markets the blues on Wednesday as the Sensex lost 145 points at 29,643 while domestic investors sat tight ahead of start of the corporate earnings season.
Industrial output data for February and retail inflation for March, slated for release after the market hours, heightened the sense of uncertainty.
After starting higher, the 30-share Sensex slipped into negative territory before settling down 144.87 points, or 0.49 per cent at 29,643.48. The gauge had bounced 213 points in the previous session.
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The 50-issue NSE Nifty ended lower by 33.55 points, or 0.36 per cent, at 9,203.45 after cracking below 9,200. Sentiment soured over rising military heat in the Middle East and the Korean peninsula following last week's US strike against Syria and sabre-rattling by the US and North Korea, which pushed investors to safer assets like gold, treasuries and the yen.
The rupee weakness against the dollar fed negative mood. Caution also prevailed ahead of the March quarterly earnings with IT behemoth Infosys set to unveil its numbers tomorrow.
"Rising geopolitical tensions continued to stoke risk aversion, with investors approaching markets with a muted stance," said Karthikraj Lakshmanan, Senior Fund Manager, Equities, BNP Paribas Mutual Fund.
The broader markets too felt the heat, with BSE small-cap and mid-cap indices registering a fall. Extending the previous day's sharp losses, Adani Power today fell 9.01 per cent after the Supreme Court ruled that the power discoms cannot charge "compensatory tariff" on costlier import.
However, Tata Power after moving both ways ended 0.06 per cent higher. In the previous session, they had crashed by up to 16 per cent. Foreign funds net sold Rs 750 crore yesterday, as per provisional figures.
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The hardest hit is Tata Steel, which fell 2.12 per cent. Others that lost heavily include Adani Ports, Wipro, GAIL and Tata Motors. Of the 30-share Sensex pack, 20 ended lower while 10 gained.
BSE consumer durables slipped 1.01 per cent, along with power, metal and PSU indices. Asian stocks ended mixed. Key indices in Europe traded higher. Market breadth turned negative as 1,756 shares ended lower, 1,144 closed higher while 136 ruled steady.
The total turnover on BSE hit Rs 4,129.54 crore, higher than Rs 3,613.98 crore during the previous session.