India's main stock index ended flat yesterday, as state-controlled oil companies fell on fears last week's petrol price hike would be partially rolled back, casting doubts about a potential increase in other fuels such as diesel.
The benchmark BSE index rose 0.4 per cent for the week, snapping four consecutive weeks of losses, as investors saw the recent sharp sell-down as overdone, but the outlook remains deeply cautious.
Indian shares are still down 6.4 per cent so far in May, as the Greek and the Eurozone woes and fears about policy paralysis and fiscal challenges at home have hit markets and sent the rupee to a string of record lows against the dollar.
Foreign investors were net sellers of Rs3.87 billion (Dh258 million) so far this month. "Rupee has been an annoying factor for the foreign investors. Until it stabilises, people will not commit any money," said Jigar Shah, senior vice president at Kim Eng Securities. "The outcome of Greece is also uncertain as of now. Overall, there are far more irritants for the markets investors," he added, "even though the markets are not expensive and oversold," India's main 30-share BSE index ended flat at 16,217.82, while the broader 50-share NSE index also ended flat at 4,920.40.
Few analysts see any short-term catalysts for Indian markets unless global risk aversion wanes in the euro zone or the government announces major fiscal consolidation measures, both of which are seen as unlikely in the short-term.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America-Merrill Lynch cut their fiscal 2012-13 growth forecasts for India yesterday, with Goldman citing policy inaction as one of its key reasons.
Investors had initially cheered the government's announcement on Wednesday to allow state oil companies to raise petrol prices, seeing it as a small gesture towards fiscal consolidation. However, that optimism dissipated after the government appeared to backtrack amid intense political pressure, leading to expectations the hike would be rolled back.
Oil stocks Hindustan Petroleum Corporation fell 2.1 per cent, while Indian Oil Corporation fell 1.6 per cent.
Among other decliners ITC fell 0.6 per cent as some investors thought January-March profits adjusted for other income came in below estimates.