Markets retreat as virus woes mount; bank stocks hammered

Markets retreat as virus woes mount; bank stocks hammered
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Mumbai: Equity indices spiralled lower for yet another session on Friday, pressured by heavy selling in bank stocks, as the the steady rise in COVID-19 cases fuelled uncertainty over the economic impact of the pandemic.

Unabated foreign fund outflows and a depreciating rupee, which skidded below the 76-mark against the dollar, further kept investors on the sidelines, traders said.

After hitting a low of 27,500.79 during the day, the 30-share BSE barometer ended 674.36 points or 2.39 per cent lower at 27,590.95.

The NSE Nifty shed 170 points, or 2.06 per cent, to finish at 8,083.80.

During the holiday-truncated week, the Sensex lost 2,224.64 points or 7.46 per cent, while the Nifty sank 576.45 points or 6.65 per cent.

Bank stocks came under heavy selling pressure on Friday after Moody's Investors Service changed the outlook for Indian banking sector to negative from stable due to the coronavirus crisis.

Axis Bank was the top loser in the Sensex pack, cracking 9.16 per cent, followed by IndusInd Bank, ICICI Bank, Titan, SBI, Maruti, HDFC and Asian Paints.

On the other hand, Sun Pharma, ITC, ONGC, M&M and Tech Mahindra were among the gainers.

With fresh cases of novel coronavirus mounting by the day, concerns over a looming economic recession kept investors on the edge, traders said.

The Asian Development Bank warned on Friday that the COVID-19 pandemic could cost the global economy $4.1 trillion as it ravages United States, Europe and other major economies.

It also said that India's economic growth rate will slip to 4 per cent in the current fiscal.

"The Indian markets opened and stayed negative, with reduced volatility. A ratings downgrade for the Banking sector, due to the impact of COVID-19 and ensuing stressed asset concerns, impacted the financial stocks.

"The slide in the markets, after a brief interlude of short recovery, continued during the course of this week , but it is comforting to see that the pace of the fall is relatively feeble now.

"...Businesses which have good cash flow and who have good cash levels and cash equivalents with them, and also entities who have leadership positions especially in the market share may see good interest from investors. Higher intrinsic value compared to the prices at which assets are available may act as a spur for discerning investors," said Joseph Thomas, Head of Research - Emkay Wealth Management.

BSE bankex, finance, auto, IT, teck and metal indices ended up to 5.39 per cent lower, while healthcare, oil and gas, utilities, FMCG and telecom closed with gains.

Broader BSE midcap and smallcap indices fell up to 1.17 per cent.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world has soared past one million and fatalities have topped 50,000 as the US reported the highest daily death toll of any country so far.

Bourses in Shanghai and Hong Kong ended in the red, while those in Seoul and Tokyo closed with mild gains.

Stocks in Europe were also trading with significant losses in early deals.

On the currency front, the rupee depreciated 55 paise to 76.15 against the US dollar in intra-day trade.

Brent crude futures, the global oil benchmark, rallied 8.15 per cent to $32.36 per barrel amid hopes that Russia and Saudi Arabia will end a price war by slashing crude output.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India has crossed 2,300 while the death toll rose to 56, according to the Health Ministry.

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