The Indian stock market snapped its four-session winning streak and ended sharply lower on Wednesday, as investors indulged in some heavy selling in the final hour, choosing to exit counters ahead of the reporting season. Data revealing a weak services sector growth in March 2013 - it plunged to a 17-month low in March - and a weak start in European markets too contributed to the sell-off.
Barrring a few stocks from healthcare, power and FMCG sectors, blue chips from other sectors - those from realty, capital goods, metal and automobile were among the worst hit - declined sharply on selling pressure.
The BSE benchmark Sensex, which plunged to 18,721.72, ended the day with a loss of 239.31 points or 1.26% at 18,801.64. The Nifty index of the National Stock Exchange closed at 5672.90, around 18 points off the day's low of 5744.95, recording a loss of 75.20 points or 1.3%.
Accordig to a survey, growth in services sector eased in March to its slowest since October 2011 as order books filled at a slower pace. The HSBC services Purchasing Managers' Index, based on a survey of around 400 companies, fell to a 17-month low of 51.4 in March from 54.2 in February.
Mirroring the bearish sentiment, only four stocks out of the 30-stock strong Sensex ended in positive territory today. Sun Pharmaceutical Industries moved up by a little over 1.5%, NTPC ended nearly a percent up and Tata Power gained 0.75%, while ITC edged up marginally. Among Nifty stocks, Ranbaxy Laboratories (1%) and Lupin (up marginally) were the ones to end higher, apart from the four Sensex gainers.
Bharti Airtel, Bajaj Auto, Tata Motors and Larsen & Toubro lost 3% - 4%. Sterlite Industries, Hindalco, GAIL India, Hero Motocorp, Reliance Industries, Coal India and ONGC declined by 2% - 2.8%.
Jindal Steel & Power and Mahindra & Mahindra lost nearly 2%. Hindustan Unilever, ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, Tata Consultancy Services, BHEL, Tata Steel, Maruti Suzuki, HDFC, HDFC Bank and Cipla also ended notably lower.
NMDC and DLF lost over 4%. Bank of Baroda, Ambuja Cements, Reliance Infrastructure, Punjab National Bank, IDFC, HCL Technologies and Sesa Goa lost 2% - 4%. Jaiprakash Associates, Axis Bank, Cairn India, ACC and Kotak Bank also declined sharply.
Though midcap and smallcap stocks retreated from the day's highs, quite a number of them managed to end on the positive side. The market breadth was slightly weak. Out of 2893 stocks traded on BSE, 1449 stocks declined. 1313 stocks moved up and 131 stocks ended flat.