The market started off on a firm note, gave up gains subsequently, and then, after moving in a tight band for almost four hours, spent a few minutes in the red before edging higher to close with modest gains on Monday.
Stocks swung between gains and losses almost right through the session, with investors trimming down positions at every small rise in values. A subdued trend in Asian markets - most of them close in green though - and mild weakness in the European markets rendered the mood extremely cautious.
Amid lingering worries about the U.S. fiscal cliff, investors mostly stayed away on the sidelines. Caution ahead of Tuesday's holiday too rendered the movements quite sluggish.
The BSE benchmark Sensex, which declined to 19,237.26 around mid afternoon after surging to 19,247.64 in early trades, ended the day with a small gain of 13.09 points or 0.07% at 19,255.09. The Nifty index of the National Stock Exchange settled at 5855.75, netting a gain of 8.05 points or 0.14%. It touched a high of 5871.90 and a low of 5869 during the day.
Information technology stocks edged higher thanks to a weak rupee. Realty and healthcare stocks too had a good session. Select stocks from automobile and power sectors too moved up. Bank, FMCG, capital goods and consumer durables stocks mostly ended flat. Oil and metal stocks lacked support.
Tata Motors ended stronger by nearly 2.5%. Wipro gained 1.8%, Infosys moved up by 1.2%, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries surged 1.5% and Tata Power ended with a gain of 1.1%.
Bajaj Auto, GAIL India, Tata Consultancy Services, NTPC, Hindustan Unilever, Bharti Airtel and Coal India also closed in positive territory.
Lupin, DLF, Axis Bank, BPCL, IDFC, Bank of Baroda, HCL Technologies, Cairn India, Siemens, Reliance Infrastructure, Asian Paints and Ambuja Cements closed higher.
Jindal Steel & Power, Ultratech Cement, ONGC (ex-dividend), Maruti Suzuki, Grasim Industries, Sesa Goa and Hero Motocorp lost 1% - 2.4%.
Kotak Bank, Jaiprakash Associates, Tata Steel, Reliance Industries and HDFC also ended weak.
Union Bank of India and Central Bank of India attracted attention on fund raising plans. Aurobindo Pharma surged higher following the company getting USFDA nod for Ondansetron injections. Glenmark Pharma rose to a new 52-week high following the company signing a development agreement with Forest Laboratories to develop inhibitors to treat chornic inflammatory conditions.
NMDC, Essar Ports, FDC, Hindustan Construction Company, Elder Pharma and Lanco Infratech also had some good spells in positive territory on stock specific news.
The market breadth was even at close. Out of 3035 stocks traded on BSE, 1448 stocks moved up. 1431 stocks declined and 156 stocks ended flat.