Indian shares end little changed amid war worries

Wednesday, 26 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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MUMBAI: India's key share market index finished flat Tuesday after erasing a large part of its early losses, as jittery investors stayed on the sidelines of the trading ring on fears of a long drawn conflict in Iraq.

Dealers said that the market opened sharply lower from its previous session's close on Iraq war jitters. It managed to stage smart rally in early trade on bargain hunting in index heavyweights.

The market, however, failed to hold on to its gains on heavy selling pressure on technology counters towards the end of the trade on fears that a prolong war in the Middle East would cast a shadow over the Indian software companies.

The stock market barometer 30-share Bombay Stock Exchange sensitive index or Sensex closed at 3,140.42, netting a marginal gain of 0.06 points over its Monday's close.

Brokers said the overall market sentiment continue to remain highly depressed on reports that the U.S. and British forces are facing "pockets of resistance" as they pushed through Iraq towards Baghdad.

The battle of Baghdad is on hold, delayed until later this week by a howling sandstorm that has cut visibility, hampered combat helicopters and forced U.S. tanks and vehicles to be wrapped in tarpaulins against the grinding sand.

The sandstorm slowed the fighting around the city of An-Nasariya, where U.S. Marines had secured the two bridges across the Euphrates river and the Saddam canal, even though Iraqi forces held out in urban areas nearby.

But there were heavy artillery exchanges overnight, and Iraqi forces were using guns concealed in civilian areas, according to military sources in Kuwait.

"One thing is absolutely clear now that the war is not going to end as swiftly as earlier expected. It may only get worse in the days ahead as U.S. forces close in on Baghdad," said a market analyst.

Analysts say while India might manage to absorb the impact of a short war with little disruption in oil supplies, a prolonged military campaign would result in soaring oil prices and quashing the economy's attempts to right itself.

"Apart from the Iraq war developments, the lack of foreign fund buying support has also dented the sentiment on the bourses. Overall, the market mood is very bearish at this stage," the analyst added.

In the old economy sector, Reliance Industries, India's largest refiner and petrochemicals maker, rose 1.4 percent to 286 and State Bank of India, the country's largest commercial bank, ended 0.3 percent higher at 279.60.

Tobacco giant ITC gained 0.6 percent to touch 614.65 and consumer goods maker Hindustan Lever closed with a gain of 0.5 percent at 156.15 on bargain hunting after sharp recent fall.

State-run Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. ended 1.1 percent higher at 297.90 after the Supreme Court Monday gave a green signal to the government's stake sale programme in the oil major.

In the technology sector, Infosys Technologies, India's largest listed software exporter, fell 2.4 percent to 4,266.15 after the company's American Depository Share, Infy, registered an overnight $2 fall on the Nasdaq stock exchange.
Source: IANS
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