BSE Sensex at two-year high, ends above 20,000

Last Updated: Wed, Oct 30, 2013 10:40 hrs

By Abhishek Vishnoi

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The BSE Sensex rose on Friday to close above 20,000 for the first time in two years, led by gains in state-owned oil and gas companies such as ONGC, which surged for a second consecutive session after the government's diesel price hike was seen reducing their subsidy burden.

The government, which fixes the retail price of diesel, told retailers on Thursday to raise the price of the subsidised fuel in small amounts every month, a move aimed at propping up public finances that should also improve revenues in the sector.

Traders are now expecting more talk of fiscal consolidation in the coming days, even as December quarter earnings reports pick up pace, ahead of RBI's policy review meeting on January 29.

"Q3 earnings are important in the near term, but for the medium term monetary policy on January 29 would be the main trigger, followed by budget next," said Phani Sekhar, fund manager at Angel Broking.

The BSE Sensex rose 0.38 percent, or 75.01 points, to end at 20,039.04, closing above the psychologically important level of 20,000 for the first time since January 6, 2011. The index added 1.9 percent in the week.

The broader Nifty rose 0.42 percent, or 25.20 points, to end at 6,064.40, adding 1.9 percent in the week.

Besides Reliance Industries December quarter earnings later in the day, traders would watch earnings reports of many large cap stocks next week, including Hindustan Unilever on Tuesday, and those of Larsen & Toubro and Maruti Suzuki India later in the week.

Shares in state-run oil firms surged for a second day on Friday, with producer Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd ending 7.4 percent higher while Oil India Ltd rose 8.7 percent.

Among refiners, Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd gained 5.4 percent and Indian Oil Corp rose 10.6 percent, while Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd ended 9.8 percent higher.

However, Nomura said the rally in India's state-run oil companies on Friday was excessive and that the government's move to incrementally reduce diesel prices would not lead to any improvement in the bottom line of these companies.

Maruti Suzuki gained 3.6 percent on hopes the diesel price move would reduce chances of the government imposing duties on diesel vehicles, a scenario some investors had fretted over.

ITC Ltd, India's biggest cigarette maker, rose 0.8 percent after it beat estimates with a 21 percent rise in quarterly profit as cigarette volumes improved after four quarters of stagnant growth, aided by the launch of low-cost products during the quarter.

Shares in National Thermal Power Corporation rose 4.7 percent ahead of its December quarter earnings on Monday.

However, among stocks that fell, India's No.3 software services provider Wipro Ltd ended 7.7 percent lower, after a less-than-perfect score on its quarterly earnings report card threw a measure of doubt over the sector's near-term outlook, with new projects and contracts still elusive.

Among other IT stocks, Tata Consultancy Services fell 0.8 percent, while Infosys ended 0.4 percent lower.

Shares in Hero MotoCorp, India's largest motorcycle maker, fell 3 percent after it missed estimates for the fourth straight quarter as net profit fell 20.4 percent on rising costs and falling sales that battered margins.

Morgan Stanley said Hero MotoCorp's shares could fall relative to India's benchmark index over the next 60 days on the back of "disappointing" Q3 earnings.

India's No.3 lender, HDFC Bank , fell 0.6 percent, after its December quarter profits came in line with forecasts with a 30 percent rise in quarterly profit on Friday, led by higher loan growth, better fee income and stable asset quality.

(Editing by Jijo Jacob)

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