Indian stocks close higher as financial data rises, COVID-19 cases fall

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A man walks past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India on Jan. 31, 2020. REUTERS / Francis Mascarenhas

Indian stocks rose marginally higher on Monday, helped by gains in heavyweight financials including the State Bank of India and a further decline in daily coronavirus infections.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index <.nsei> closed 0.15% higher at 15,197.70 while the benchmark index S&P BSE Sensex <.bsesn> rose by 0.22% to 50,651.90. Both indices gained more than 3% last week.

The Nifty PSU Bank Index <.niftypsu>, which cites state banks, rose 2.13%, marking its fourth consecutive profit session.

The private lender HDFC Bank and State Bank of India were the top boosts for the Nifty 50, closing 0.8% and 2.7% higher, respectively.

SBI, the country’s top lender, reported record earnings per quarter on Friday and said it saw no concerns about the quality of its assets.

Health ministry data showed that daily cases of the novel coronavirus remained below the 300,000 mark for the eighth straight day. However, the death toll exceeded 300,000.

A steady decline in new COVID-19 cases and hopes the lockdowns will be lifted sooner than expected helped the market expand its profits, said Vinod Nair, head of research at Geojit Financial Services.

“Positive quarterly results and alleviating asset quality issues helped drive bank stocks to buy, while mid- and small-cap stocks outperformed,” he said.

Panacea Biotech Ltd closed 3.4% higher after the Russian Direct Investment Fund announced that the drug maker had started production of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V for COVID-19.

Among the losers, JSW Steel Ltd closed 2.4% lower after announcing not to buy overseas assets. Reuters and other media had previously reported that the steelmaker was considering an offer to acquire Liberty Steel in the UK as well as plants in other countries.

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