BSE Sensex index closed at its lowest in more than a week on Monday, its third straight day of retreat from record highs hit last week, as blue chips such as ICICI Bank fell on caution sparked by the start of a five-week long elections.
India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), widely tipped to form the next government, pledged on Monday to expedite foreign investment in most sectors except for multi-brand retail and revise the country’s nuclear doctrine.
Most of the policies outlined in BJP’s manifesto were read as prudent but investors remained sceptical about fast implementation and fiscal discipline in such projects.
Shares have rallied on hopes Hindu nationalist opposition candidate Narendra Modi, a more business-friendly candidate, is seen coming to power on promises of economic revival and jobs.
Weak institutional flows also weighed on sentiment. Overseas investors bought shares worth 2.32 billion rupees ($38.55 million) on Friday, while domestic institutional investors sold stocks worth 11.25 billion rupees.
Overseas investors have bought Indian shares worth $4.46 billion so far in 2014, driving shares higher.
NSE’s volatility index, or the domestic equivalent of the VIX fear gauge, ended 9.9 percent higher, after earlier hitting its highest in nearly six months on rising fears of profit-taking after a recent rally.
“The BJP manifesto looks promising and diligent. Current bout of profit-taking might continue given we just made record highs and a lot of things are priced in,” said Deven Choksey, managing director at K R Choksey Securities.
The benchmark BSE index fell 0.07 percent, or 16.05 points, to end at 22,343.45, its lowest close since March 28.
The broader NSE index rose 0.01 percent, or 0.70 points, to end at 6,695.05.
India’s stocks, bonds and forex markets would be closed for a local holiday on Tuesday.
Falls also tracked lower global shares that slipped from last week’s six-year high on Monday as technology shares extended recent sell-off.
Release of Fed minutes on Wednesday and India’s industrial output data for February on Friday would be on watch as well.
Among blue chip stocks, ICICI Bank fell 1.7 percent, while Maruti Suzuki lost 1.2 percent.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd fell 3.2 percent after the state-run top power equipment maker reported on Saturday a 51 percent fall in provisional net profit for the fiscal year ended March 31 to 32.28 billion rupees ($536.3 million.
Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd fell 3 percent on profit-taking after Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd said it would buy the company in a $3.2 billion all-share deal, creating the world’s fifth-largest generic drug maker. Other pharmaceutical stocks also fell on rival Sun Pharmaceutical’s rising share in the domestic market after Ranbaxy’s acquisition, dealers said.
Dr.Reddy’s Laboratories and Lupin Ltd fell 1.7 percent each, while Cipla Ltd lost 1.9 percent.
However, Sun Pharmaceutical Industries rose 2.9 percent on bets it can fix factory quality glitches that plagued the current owner, Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo Co, and got Ranbaxy India-made drugs barred from the United States.
Indian cement stocks also gained after the world’s two largest cement makers, France’s Lafarge and Holcim of Switzerland, agreed the terms of a merger that would create a company with a market value of around $55 billion, a source close to the deal said on Sunday.
Hopes of consolidation are sparking gains in the sector. Holcim-owned ACC Ltd rose 1 percent, Ambuja Cements advanced 3 percent, while UltraTech Cement surged 3.5 percent.