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Weekly Market Report: Sideways move

With the Union Budget out of the way and oil prices still high, expect range-bound movement

The market closed the week with good gains on positive sentiment from the Union Budget, with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee targeting a 9% growth in the next fiscal, proposing to hike the foreign institutional investment (FII) limit and reducing the surcharge on corporate tax.

Auto, banking and realty stocks fuelled the rally on Budget day and the day after. The positive feeling helped to balance the uncertainty on account of Middle East tensions, which continued to push up oil prices to multi-year highs, hurting global markets. Easing food inflation also kept sentiment positive on Thursday, but the markets took a breather on the last trading day, ending flat.

Overall, the market was 4% higher with the Sensex gaining 785.84 points and the Nifty adding 235.20 points. This is the biggest weekly gains since last Diwali.

The top gainers on the Sensex this week were Mahindra & Mahindra (up 14%), Maruti Suzuki (up 12%), ITC (up 10%), HDFC (up 9%) and HDFC Bank (up 8%). It is noteworthy that no stocks were beaten down post the Budget. Reliance Infrastructure (down 5%) was the only significant loser. Bharti Airtel was also down 1%.

All sectoral indices ended in the green this week. The BSE Auto (up 8%) and BSE Fast Moving Consumer Goods (up 7%), BSE Realty (up 6%), BSE Bankex and BSE Capital Goods (up 5% each) were the best performers.

On Monday, the market opened in the green ahead of the Union Budget presentation. The Sensex shot up 550 points as the finance minister concluded his speech. But it gave up these gains on profit-booking and closed around the opening levels. The Sensex ended the day 122 points up at 17,823 and the Nifty was up 30 points at 5,333.

On the day after the Budget, the domestic market opened with decent gains, as investors continued to celebrate the absence of bad news in the finance minister's proposals. Positive economic indicators like improvement in factory output, core infrastructure industries and expansion of exports in January along with firm Asian markets also strengthened the rally. The key indices closed the day with gains of over 3.5%. The Indian stock markets were closed on Wednesday on account of a local holiday.

On Thursday, the market opened in the red on renewed concerns over high crude prices that led investors to book profits early in the day. But, reports about fresh initiatives to resolve the conflict in Libya lifted the indices above the neutral line and up to the day's high. Trade was volatile in the late session and the market closed with marginal gains.

The market opened with a positive gap on Friday, thanks to a rally in the US overnight and an equally strong rally in Asia. Both the Sensex and the Nifty managed to maintain the trend of a higher high and a lower low for a fourth consecutive day. The intra-day highs were 18,737 and 5,608 respectively. Towards the end of trade, both indices hit their intra-day lows of 18,449 and 5,524, but recovered to close flat.

With the gains from the Union Budget accomplished this week and oil prices still high, there is no immediate trigger for any further significant gains and the market is expected to move in a narrow range, going ahead.

In economic news, a decline in vegetable and cereals prices pulled down food inflation by more than one percentage point to 10.39% for the week ended 19th February, from 11.49% in the previous week and 21.62% in the corresponding period a year ago.

Commenting on food inflation, chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu stressed on using the provisions of the competition law to prevent cartelisation by traders to jack up prices of essential food items. Meanwhile, experts said that though declining prices of certain food items would have a favourable impact on headline inflation in February, fuel prices would have to be watched.

The HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI)-a headline index to measure the overall health of the manufacturing sector-stood at 57.9 in February, up from 56.8 in the previous month. The latest reading indicates a marked expansion of the Indian manufacturing sector, which was at its strongest in three months. The index is based on data compiled from monthly replies to questionnaires sent to purchasing executives in over 500 manufacturing companies.

The output of six core infrastructure industries-crude oil, petroleum refinery products, coal, electricity, cement and finished steel- grew by 7.1% in January 2011, from 6.1% in December and 9.8% in the year-ago period. During the April-January period of the current fiscal, the six core industries registered a growth of 5.6%, compared to an expansion of 5.5% in the previous corresponding period.

Driven by a pick-up in demand in the US and Latin American markets, India's exports rose by 32.4% year-on-year to $20.6 billion in January, while imports grew by 13.1% during the month to $28.58 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $7.98 billion.

During the April 2010-January 2011 period, outbound shipments grew by 29.3% to $184.63 billion vis-à-vis the year-ago period, according to the commerce ministry.

Commerce secretary Rahul Khullar recently said India is likely to cross the $200 billion export target for the fiscal in February and total shipments during the year are likely to touch $225 billion.

Among precious metals, gold rose on higher demand due to the worsening conflict in Libya. Silver topped $35 an ounce, extending a rally to its highest level in 31 years.

Gold futures for April delivery rose $12.20, or 0.9%, to settle at $1,428.60 an ounce on the Comex in New York. The metal rose 1.4% this week.

Silver futures for May delivery jumped $1, or 2.9%, to $35.327 per ounce. Earlier, the price reached $35.405, the highest since March 1980. This week, silver gained 7.3%, the sixth straight increase.

Crude oil for April delivery increased $2.51 to $104.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest close since 26th September 2008. The contract rose 6.7% this week, the third straight advance, and is up 30% from a year ago.

Brent crude for April settlement rose $1.18, or 1%, to end the session at $115.97 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The contract gained 3.4% this week, the sixth straight weekly increase.

Rising tensions in the Middle East and sustained growth in the US is expected to put further pressure on crude prices, which could hurt manufacturing, and this would determine the extent of the movement in the market going forward.


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