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India Shares End Down as Foreign Funds Continue Selloff

09/02/2015 | 08:13am US/Eastern
   By Kenan Machado 

MUMBAI--Indian shares gave up early gains Wednesday to close down for the third-straight session as volatality and fund outflows hurt sentiment.

The S&P BSE Sensex closed nearly 1% lower at 25,453.56, while the National Stock Exchange's Nifty index declined 0.9% to 7,717.00, the lowest at which the two indices closed in 13 months.

The Sensex was up 0.7% in the morning after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said a so-called minimum alternate tax, which Indian tax authorities had started demanding from foreign institutional investors this year, wouldn't apply to cases prior to April 1.

But that didn't help stem the selloff by foreign investors looking to book gains and consolidate their portfolio in emerging markets.

"There was no buyer in the market," said Daljeet S Kohli, head of research for Mumbai broker IndiaNivesh Securities Pvt. Ltd. Amid the volatality, Indian domestic institutional investors too stayed away from stepping in, he said.

Also, Monday's economic data confirmed fears that there would be a delay in any expected economic recovery in India. Data showed the country's growth in gross domestic product at 7% year-over-year was slower than the preceding quarter's 7.5% expansion and also weaker than the 7.4% average forecast by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (500103.BY) led the declines in Sensex stocks, closing down 5.1% followed by Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. (500520.BY, down 3.6%, and Oil & Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY) was down 3.6%.

"Crude prices fell by more than 2% in the day on the back of better-than-expected U.S. oil stocks buildup and weaker demand expectations," said Hiren Dhakan, an associate fund manager at Mumbai broker Bonanza Portfolio Ltd. Bharat Heavy makes turbines for gas-powered plants while Oil & Natural Gas is India's largest state-run gas producer. Shares in Mahindra fell as its August sales data disappointed investors.

The banking index closed down 1.8%, dragging other stocks as well after the Reserve Bank of India suggested tweaking the calculation of banks' key reference interest rate. Analysts believe this will compel banks to lower their key reference lending rates faster than anticipated.

India's largest software exporter Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. (532540.BY) closed up 2.5%, followed by Tata Steel Ltd. (500470.BY), which was up 1.6% and cigarette-maker ITC Ltd. (500875.BY), which rose 1.4%. Tata Consultancy shares rose after analysts said it was the best stock to withstand volatality while Tata Steel and ITC rose on bargain buying.

The Indian rupee was trading at 66.19 against the U.S. dollar in late-session spot trading compared with Tuesday's close of 66.22.

-Write to Kenan Machado at kenan.machado@wsj.com

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