The Indian markets have started today’s session on a positive note. The benchmark indices opened at the breakeven mark but soon surged into the green. They have managed to hold on to their gains since then. Other key Asian markets are in the green with Japan (up 2%) leading the pack of gainers. The US markets closed higher by 2.8% yesterday.
Currently in India, heavyweights from the BSE-Sensex are trading strong with construction, banking and software majors finding investors’ favour. The BSE-Sensex is trading higher by around 170 points, while the NSE-Nifty is up by about 50 points. Buying interest is also being witnessed among mid and small cap stocks as the BSE-Midcap and BSE-Smallcap indices are trading higher by 0.8% and 0.9% respectively. The rupee is trading at 46.75 to the US dollar.
Energy stocks have opened the day on a positive note. Gainers here include Cairn India and Reliance Industries. As per a leading business daily, Reliance Industries is in talks to buy a stake in shale gas assets owned by US based Pioneer Natural Resources. The Indian petrochemical giant may join Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil in buying the assets. Pioneer has about 310,000 acres of shale gas acreage in South Texas in the US. Companies across the globe are increasingly looking at investing in shale gas, given that its production is expected to go up four times in the US. It may be noted that Reliance Industries is keen on expanding its international footprint and shale gas is a lucrative area. In fact, the company has recently acquired 40% interest in Atlas Energy’s Marcellus shale acreage in the US. Low operating costs and proximity to established markets are important factors is identifying economically attractive unconventional natural gas resource plays.
Banking stocks have opened the day on a positive note. Gainers here include HDFC Bank and Yes Bank. As per a leading business daily, ICICI Bank plans to increase its presence in rural and semi-urban areas. In our view, this decision ties in with the bank’s strategy to use its branch network to source most of its loans, rather than through direct sales agents. In fact, the bank added more than 500 branches last year to take its network to about 2,000 branches. The bank’s proposed merger with Bank of Rajasthan will help implement the decision as 40% of the latter’s 463 branches are in the rural and semi-urban areas. Interestingly, ICICI Bank had stepped up its focus on rural areas in FY06 but had retracted after suffering heavy losses as it was cheated of Rs 2 bn at certain central and state government warehouses.