Sensex Edges Lower, Nifty Below 10,400

The Sensex had closed 61 points lower at 33,856 on Tuesday

The BSE Sensex started Wednesday’s session on a lower note, taking cues from other Asian markets where equities eased amid fears of rising US protectionism. The BSE benchmark index Sensex shed as much as 142 points to touch 33,713 while the Nifty lost 40 points to trade below the 10,400 mark in early morning deals. Declines were led by banking, metal and realty shares – down between 0.6 per cent and 1 per cent.

PSU banking stocks came under selling pressure. Punjab National Bank shares were trading 3.7 per cent lower in early deals. SBI was down 1.6 per cent, Bank of Baroda down 2 per cent and Bank of India down 2.6 per cent.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Tuesday barred all lenders from issuing letters of undertaking – a form of credit guarantee at the heart of a major fraud – as PNB disclosed its total exposure in the case had risen by another $145 million (Rs 942 crore). Punjab National Bank said last month it had been defrauded of about $2 billion.

At 9:23 am, 34 stocks on the 50-scrip NSE Nifty were trading in the negative zone. Among the top losers were Bharti Infratel, Coal India and SBI – trading around 1 per cent lower. Other Nifty losers included Tata Steel, Axis Bank, Adani Ports, ICICI Bank, Hindalco Industries.

Among other metal stocks, JSW Steel, Vedanta, JSPL and NMDC were down around 0.3-1.3 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.3 per cent, retreating from a one-and-a-half month high hit on Tuesday. Australian shares stumbled 0.8 per cent in early trade, while Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.8 per cent. South Korea’s Kospi index declined 0.7 per cent.

In the United States, President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, regarded as a moderate in his administration. Mr Trump also eyes hefty tariffs on Chinese imports. The combination left investors scurrying for safety as global equities took a knock.