After a somewhat shaky start and a subsequent tight spell, the BSE benchmark Sensex spurted to a more than 20-week high and the National Stock Exchange's barometer Nifty hit its best level since 3 April 2012, but in the end, both failed to hold their gains and finished on a flat note on Wednesday.
While a firm trend in Asian markets and expectations of some positive fiscal measures from the government kept the market floating in positive territory despite some profit taking at times, a weak start on the European bourses pushed down stock prices during the last thirty minutes and resulted in a flat close for the benchmark indices.
While the Sensex, which rose to 17,726.64 in the final hour, ended the day with a slender loss of 1.22 points or 0.01% at 17,600.56, the Nifty closed at 5338, nearly 40 points off the day's high of 5377.60, netting a small gain of 1.30 points or 0.02%.
Automobile stocks found good support today. Mahindra & Mahindra ended with a gain of almost 4% thanks to better than expected quarterly numbers. Tata Motors gained 1.2%, while Bajaj Auto and Hero Motocorp gained around 0.6% each, and Maruti Suzuki closed with a modest loss.
Metal stocks Hindalco, Sterlite Industries and Jindal Steel closed with strong gains. JSW Steel, Tata Steel and Sesa Goa ended off their highs, but still managed to post modest gains, while Coal India ended marginally up.
Bharti Airtel ended lower by over 6% following a significant fall in earnings in the April - June 2012 quarter. GAIL India lost about 3% and DLF drifted down by a little over 2%. Punjab National Bank, ICICI Bank, IDFC, Cairn India, Tata Consultancy Services, Siemens, Larsen & Toubro, Reliance Infrastructure, Jaiprakash Associates, SAIL, Tata Power and BHEL also ended weak.
The market breadth was weak. Out of 2966 stocks traded on BSE, 1606 stocks declined. 1245 stocks moved up and 115 stocks ended flat.