The Sensex snapped a three-day winning streak on Tuesday, retreating from two-year highs, as Hindustan Unilever (HUL) slumped after posting disappointing volumes growth, while Cairn India Ltd was hit by worries about a slower production ramp-up in a key block.
HUL results were in contrast with a series of upbeat reports from blue chips such as Infosys Ltd, which had sparked a round of profit-taking in shares. Earnings results from HUL and Cairn offset the impact of Finance Minister P Chidambaram's comment during meetings with foreign investors in Hong Kong that the government remained committed to pro-growth policies and reforms.
Results of blue chips such as Larsen & Toubro on Thursday and Maruti Suzuki on Friday will set the trend for markets, while the Reserve Bank of India's policy review on January 29, when the central bank is widely expected to cut interest rates by 25 basis points, will be key next week.
The benchmark BSE Sensex ended 0.6 per cent, or 120.25 points, to end at 19,981.57, after hitting its highest since January 2011 yesterday. The broader Nifty fell 0.56 per cent, or 33.80 points, to end at 6,048.50, a day after hitting its highest since January 6, 2011.
Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the Indian unit of Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever Plc, fell 3.3 per cent.
India's largest consumer goods maker fell despite posting a 16 per cent jump in third-quarter net profit, hurt by low volume growth and a rise in royalty payments.
Cairn India Ltd shares fell 2.3 per cent after a Kotak report said its management indicated a slower ramp-up in production from its Rajasthan block.
Ashok Leyland fell 2.85 per cent after Jefferies downgraded India's second-biggest bus and truck maker to 'underperform' from 'buy', citing slower demand for trucks from Southern India.
Kotak Mahindra Bank rose 1.55 per cent after its December quarter earnings rose 24.6 per cent to Rs 577 crore from a year earlier.
Pantaloon Retail Ltd gained 9.7 per cent after RBI eased restrictions on the purchase of shares in the company by foreign institutional investors as well as non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin.