Some late hour buying pulled the Indian markets high into the positive territory from what was otherwise looking like a lacklustre close to the day. Strength was seen in stocks from the IT and banking sectors. However, auto and FMCG stocks continued to trade weak. On the broader BSE, there were two losers for every stock that closed in the positive today.
The BSE Sensex and NSE Nifty closed with marginal gains of around 70 points (0.4%) and 30 points (0.6%) respectively. Mid and small cap stocks however closed in the red. The BSE Midcap and BSE Smallcap indices closed down by 0.2% and 0.5% respectively. At the time of writing this, the rupee was trading at 45.57 to the US dollar.
Among other key Asian markets, China and Japan closed marginally in the positive. European markets have opened the day on a negative note.
IT stocks were the biggest gainers today. The BSE-IT index closed up by 0.8%. Key gainers here included Patni Computers, TCS, and Wipro. The decline in rupee's value against the US dollar can be attributed as the reason for gains in these stocks today. As a matter of fact, rupee's depreciation against the US dollar helps Indian IT companies earn more for the same amount of their dollar receivables. And given that a large part of their total receivables are in US dollar terms, the rupee's decline against this currency is better for them. Today's depreciation in the rupee has to do something with the broader weakness in the Indian stockmarkets and withdrawal of funds from the FIIs. Also, speculation that oil companies and the government are looking to buy dollars to take advantage of the currency's gain to a two-month high, seemed to have fueled this decline in the currency today.
ABB topped the gainers' list on the Nifty. This follows the company's announcement of a US$ 22 bn order from the Haryana state-owned power utility Haryana Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Ltd. (HVPNL). ABB will provide four turnkey substations for HVPNL's regional grid in the state. The scope of the project covers design, supply, installation and commissioning of the substations and associated equipments, which includes switchgear and power transformers. ABB has recently seen a jump in its order inflows. This has come on the back of improved capex spending from Indian industries and power utilities. As it recently reported, the company booked orders worth Rs 24 bn during the quarter ended December 2009. This was about 88% higher than the orders it had booked in the quarter ended December 2008. The cumulative order inflow for the latest completed year (2009) stood at Rs 87 bn, a growth of 8% YoY. The company's order backlog at the end of the quarter stood at Rs 85 bn, which was higher by about 38% YoY. Anyways, other key gainers among engineering stocks were Blue Star and Voltas.
Oil marketing majors like IOC, BPCL and HPCL closed weak today. The weakness seemed a result of rising worries on the under recoveries front for these companies. The prices of crude oil have inched steadily upwards over the past few weeks and with the Government's hands tied on account of political constraints, it looks like the entire burden of the price rise will have to be borne by the oil marketing companies, resulting into greater losses.
It should be noted that the Indian basket of crude oil, which tracks benchmark Brent crude, has average US$ 69.2 a barrel in the current financial year but the prices have spiked up recently, going up to as much as US$ 77 per barrel by the end of the first week of March. Needless to say, if the trend keeps on persisting and if the Government does not crack the whip, oil marketing companies could see further damage to their respective net worth.