The BSE Sensex fell on Wednesday, snapping a two-day rise, as mobile carrier stocks dropped on worries about the impact from the entry of a unit of Reliance Industries into the sector, although drug makers gained on hopes for improved US sales.
Profit-taking also hit shares after domestic indexes closed at their highest in five months yesterday, with global shares also slipping from multi-month highs as investors weighed whether signs of progress in the euro zone debt crisis warranted the recent surge.
Foreign liquidity flows have played a big role in supporting Indian shares since the start of July, with cumulative net purchases of around $3 billion) bringing their total for the year to around $10.5 billion.
The flows have come even as the government has yet to announce any fiscal reforms, although investors still widely expect some measures.
"Some profit-booking in short-term in not ruled out, given we have risen too much," said Deven Choksey, managing director of K R Choksey Securities
"Government is moving in the right direction with talks of disinvestment and fuel subsidies. Decision are delayed but government is definitely on the job."
The BSE Sensex fell 0.21 per cent to end at 17,846.86 points. The Nifty fell 0.15 per cent to end at 5,412.85 points. Both indexes posted their highest close since March 14 yesterday.
Trading volumes in the more widely traded NSE index hit their lowest since August 2, as one million bank employees began a two-day strike on Wednesday to protest against reforms that will give investors more clout in the tightly controlled sector.
Bharti Airtel shares fell 3.8 per cent to their lowest close since October 2006 after Credit Suisse said the potential entry of Reliance Infotel, a unit of Reliance Industries, into both voice and data segments would pose 'significant' risks to incumbent players.
Other mobile carriers also fell, with Reliance Communications, which is part of a different set of Reliance companies controlled by billionaire Anil Ambani, dropped 4.8 per cent.
Recent outperformers declined: housing finance company HDFC fell 0.8 per cent after rising 4.2 per cent over the previous three sessions, while software services exporter Tata Consultancy Services fell 0.5 per cent after gaining 2.8 per cent over the previous two sessions.
NCC, Shipping Corporation of India, South Indian Bank and Central Bank of India fell 1 to four per cent each after the National Stock Exchange excluded their shares from futures & options trading starting from October 26.
However, among gainers Ranbaxy Laboratories rose 3.8 per cent to its highest close since May 29 on hopes for increased sales of the generic version of diabetes drug Actos in the key US market after regulators denied approval for a rival generic drug from Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Cox & Kings Ltd jumped 5.4 per cent after saying Citigroup's venture capital arm will invest $137.75 million in the UK unit on the Indian tour operator.