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Metals, realty lead the gains
Tue, 22 Dec Closing

After last week's selloff, Indian markets had a good opening to the current week. Today's gains were led by stocks from the metal, realty and banking sectors. On the other hand, IT and pharma stocks that performed well last week, closed today with losses.

The BSE Sensex and the NSE Nifty closed with gains of around 90 points (0.6%) and 40 points (0.8%) respectively. Stocks from the mid and small cap spaces also followed suit. The BSE Midcap and BSE Smallcap indices closed higher by around 0.9% and 1.1% respectively. The rupee was trading at 46.81 to the US dollar at the time of writing.

After last week's hammering, banking stocks were back in the positive today. The BSE-Bankex closed 1.2% up. Key gainers included Yes Bank, Axis Bank, and IDBI Bank. Soothing comments from the finance ministry that sort of doused the fear of higher interest rates in the near future seemingly benefited these stocks today. Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the deputy head of India's Planning Commission, said today, "The sharp surge in Indian food prices reflects the impact of the drought and inefficient distribution, which could not be addressed by monetary policy."

Investors in banking stocks have been a worried lot over the past few days. This was on the back of expectations that the RBI will raise interest rates soon to tame rising inflation. Pressure on bank stocks was simply because higher interest rates from the RBI will mean higher cost of funds for banks. This would subsequently force them to raise their own interest costs thereby leading to a possible decline in credit offtake. Today's comments from the government have thus acted as good news for them (the banks).

IT stocks closed weak today. This was seemingly owing to profit book after the good performance that the sector had recorded last week. Key losers today included the likes of TCS, Tech Mahindra, and Infosys. Mid-size IT player Mindtree, which today announced its intentions of acquisitions, also closed marginally down. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the company is looking for potential acquisitions within a range of US$ 50-100 m. This the company believes will take it to its target of US$ 1 bn in revenues by FY14 (from around US$ 270 m currently). While the company has also been impacted owing to the slowdown in IT sector, it seems to be slowly recovering from the effects as technology spending is making a modest return in developed countries, which are its major markets.

Telecom stocks ended the day on a firm note led by Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Reliance Communications. Gains in these stocks was owing to the news of the government sticking to its plan of holding auctions for 3G spectrum in mid January next year. It is believed that four slots will be available for sale in 22 telecom circles. However, spectrum will be accessible to the operators only by August 2010. As per the telecom minister, it would be allocated simultaneously to the operators. It must be noted that five players would be allowed in every circle, with one slot reserved for state-owned BSNL and in Mumbai and Delhi for MTNL.

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