The Indian equity markets had a rather volatile trading session today. The markets began the day's proceedings on a weak note and while there were attempts to push above the dotted line, these proved to be short lived as profit booking once again took over. From thereon, selling activity persisted among heavyweights as a result of which the indices languished in the red throughout the remainder of the session. While the BSE-Sensex today closed lower by 173 points, the NSE-Nifty closed lower by 56 points. Both the BSE Mid Cap and the BSE Small Cap closed flat. Losses were largely seen in healthcare and IT stocks.
As regards global markets, most Asian indices closed weak today while European indices have also opened in the red. The rupee was trading at Rs 62.00 to the dollar at the time of writing.
Engineering stocks closed mixed today. While Voltas and ABB India found favour, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and BHEL closed into the red. As per a leading business daily, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has bagged a Rs 15.5 bn road project in Oman. This is from the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Sultanate of Oman for the construction of a road between Bidbid-Sur Section. The project is expected to be completed in 38 months. This order has been secured by the Transportation Infrastructure business of L&T and is part of the company's overall strategy of expanding in the infrastructure space in the GCC countries. Indeed, during 3QFY14, L&T registered an order inflow of Rs 217.2 bn, a growth of 21% YoY. The total order book at the end of the quarter stood at Rs 1,711.8 bn. Of this, 76% belongs to the infrastructure segment, 9% to the power segment, 8% to metallurgical and material handling segment, 4% to heavy engineering segment with the balance being constituted by others.
As per a leading business daily, India's manufacturing activity expanded in February in what is its fastest pace in a year. According to Markit, the HSBC India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 52.5 in February from 51.4 in January. A reading above 50 indicates expansion while one below shows contraction. Whether this signals a recovery in the manufacturing sector remains to be seen though. This is because industrial production in the last 12 months has largely been erratic. While there were some months when growth was decent and fueled hopes of a recovery, these were followed be months of slump. Several factors have led to this including lack of reforms, projects getting stalled and policy paralysis of the current government. There are hopes that post the general elections this year, the new government will swing into action and implement reforms that will take India's growth to the next level. One will have to wait and see.