The Indian markets have started today's session on a weak note. The benchmark indices opened below the breakeven mark and have not managed to break into the positive territory since then. Other key Asian markets are trading in the red with Hong Kong (down 1.9%) leading the pack of gainers. The US markets closed lower by 0.4% last Friday.
Currently in India, heavyweights from the BSE-Sensex are trading in the red with construction and banking stocks attracting buying interest. The BSE-Sensex is trading lower by around 90 points, while the NSE-Nifty is down by about 30 points. Selling interest is also being witnessed among mid and small cap stocks as the BSE-Midcap and BSE-Smallcap indices are trading lower by 0.5% and 0.4% respectively. The rupee is trading at 45.49 to the US dollar.
Energy stocks have opened the day on a negative note. Losers here include Petronet LNG and Chennai Petroleum. Indian state owned energy companies have become quite active in scouting for oil and gas assets overseas. As per a leading business daily, Indian Oil and Oil India have been trying to takeover UK based Gulfsands Petroleum at around 400 m British pounds. Gulfsands has a strong focus on exploration in the Middle East, especially Syria. The company produces around 11,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) in Syria and about 6,000 bpd in the Gulf of Mexico in the US. The takeover bid has not received a positive response so far primarily on the question of valuation. In our view, the takeover attempt is part of India's strategy to acquire oil assets abroad and strengthen its energy security. In fact, the Indian Oil and Oil India combine already have exploration blocks in Gabon, Iran, Libya, Nigeria and Yemen. They have also been pursuing assets in South-East Asia, South America, CIS countries and Russia.
Banking stocks have opened the day on a negative note. Gainers here include Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank. As per a leading business daily, India's largest bank SBI is marching ahead with its expansion plans. It plans to open 1,000 branches in FY11 to take the tally to over 13,000. The bank also plans to add almost 4,000 ATMs by the end of March to take the figure to around 25,000. SBI also plans to hire more than 27,000 employees across its various divisions during FY11 including 5,500 at the probationary officer level. In our view, this is part of SBI's efforts to acquire global size and scale.