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Markets Lose Momentum to Finish Flat
Thu, 17 Mar Closing

Indian equity markets began the day's proceedings on a positive note and continued to trade above the dotted line in the morning trade. However, the markets lost momentum in the afternoon session and finished flat amid selling activity in pharma, realty and auto stocks. At the closing bell, the BSE Sensex closed lower by 5 points, the NSE Nifty closed higher by 14 points. The S&P BSE Midcap and the S&P BSE Small Cap finished higher by 0.5% and 0.1% respectively.

Most Asian markets advanced as the US Federal Reserve left rates unchanged at between 0.25% and 0.5% in its March meeting. The Hang Seng gained 1.21% and the Shanghai Composite rose 1.2%. The Nikkei 225 lost 0.22%. European markets are trading mixed. The FTSE 100 is higher by 0.20%, while the DAX & CAC 40 are down 0.68% and 0.04% respectively.

Oil prices were trading at US$39.26 a barrel at the time of writing. The rupee was trading at 66.88 against the US$.

According to an article in Livemint, ratings agency CARE Ratings has downgraded the credit rating for Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) from AAA to AA+ due to subdued financial performance. The topline of the company declined by 19.5% YoY, while the company reported a net loss of Rs 15.28 billion (Subscription Required) during the quarter.

Reportedly, CARE Ratings has downgraded most of SAIL's debt instruments worth Rs 154 billion from an AAA rating to AA+ and reaffirmed its A+ rating of short-term commercial papers worth Rs 80 billion. According to the reports, CARE added that the rating has taken into account other factors including the strength the company which derives from its majority government ownership and recent policy changes like the minimum import price.

The downgrade action is a first since 2014 and signals the stress in the steel sector now reflecting on state-run companies like SAIL. The stock price of SAIL finished up by 0.7% on the BSE.

In another development, Tata Steel is unlikely to start work immediately on its steel plant at Kalinganagar in Odisha. The company reportedly plans to focus on stabilizing the first phase of Kalinganagar. The unit has an annual capacity of three million tonnes and the second phase will have another three million tonne capacity.

Healthcare stocks languished in red today with Lupin and Strides Shasun bearing majority of the brunt. According to a leading financial daily, Biocon's wholly-owned subsidiary Biocon SA has entered into a co-development and commercialization agreement with Mexico's Laboratories PiSA SA de CV for generic recombinant human insulin. The company has shared entered into cost sharing and profit sharing agreement of the product in the US market.

The drug substance will be made by Biocon, while the drug product will be made by PiSA at its facility in Mexico. The company has reported 10.5% YoY growth in total income and 199.9% YoY increase in net profits (Subscription Required) for the quarter ended December 2015. The shares of Biocon finished the day on a negative note (down 2.6%) on the BSE.

Meanwhile, the board of directors of Taro Pharmaceuticals have approved a US$ 250 million share repurchase of its ordinary shares. The repurchase authorization enables the company to purchase its ordinary shares from time to time through open-market purchases, negotiated transactions or other means.

Taro Pharmaceuticals is an Israeli arm of Sun Pharma with the latter holding 69% stake. Reportedly, the repurchase move could strengthen Sun Pharma's hold on Taro.

In another news, the domestic pharmaceuticals market was valued at US$15.4 billion in 2014 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (Subscription required) of 13.3% to about US$33 billion by 2020, according to a report by Assocham and market research firm RNCOS.

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