The BSE Sensex fell on Wednesday as two-wheeler makers such as Bajaj Auto retreated after an industry body cut its estimates for motorcycle sales, while software services exporters fell ahead of earnings announcement.
After a strong start to the year, investors are turning more cautious ahead of third-quarter earnings reports. Infosys Ltd will kick off the blue-chip reporting season on Friday.
Even more important will be the corporate profit outlook for the year, at a time of optimism that an expected interest rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India on January 29 will help support economic growth.
"Third-quarter earnings growth should be better than second-quarter, or else the market is likely to show signs of nervousness," said R.K. Gupta, managing director at Taurus Mutual Fund.
Any positive surprise cannot be ruled out, Gupta added.
0.38 percent, or 75.93 points, to end at 19,666.59. However, the index is still up 1.63 percent for the month.
The broader Nifty ended 0.5 percent, or 30.20 points, lower at 5,971.50.
Shares in two-wheeler makers were hit after the country's automobile industry association cut FY13 motorcycle sales growth forecast to 3-5 percent from 5-7 percent earlier.
Bajaj Auto shares fell 1.84 percent while Hero MotoCorp lost 1.8 percent.
Software services exporters also fell. The December quarter is a seasonally weak one for technology companies, and analysts are waiting for management comments on outlook.
Infosys fell 0.55 percent while Tata Consultancy Services ended down 1.8 percent.
Larsen & Toubro Ltd extended its recent fall and ended 1.1 percent lower. Citigroup and Barclays downgraded the engineering conglomerate on Tuesday on concerns over order cancellations and weak investment cycle.
Among gainers, Tata Motors Ltd closed 4.2 percent higher after hitting a record high of 330.35 rupees, as Credit Suisse and CLSA upgraded their ratings on the stock, citing expectations of improving sales.
Oil marketing companies, among the top performers this month, gained on hopes the government will announce diesel reforms soon. Hindustan Petroleum Corp rose 4 percent while Bharat Petroleum Corp gained 1.3 percent.
Shares in Havells India Ltd gained 4.82 percent as analysts lauded the transfer of the brand name 'Havells' from one of its promoters to the company at no cost, which is expected to save on royalty payments and improve corporate governance.