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Sensex falls 765 pts as Omicron enters India

Mumbai: Domestic markets lurched lower on Friday after India reported its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, prompting investors to dial back risk exposure.

The Centre on Thursday said two cases of Omicron have been detected in Karnataka. Both the patients are men, aged 66 and 46 years, with mild symptoms. Severe symptoms have not been noted, an official said.

The government has asked people not to panic and follow COVID-appropriate behaviour. It also said while there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work against Omicron, some of the mutations reported may decrease the efficacy of the jabs.

Snapping its two-session rally, the 30-share BSE Sensex nosedived 764.83 points or 1.31 per cent to end at 57,696.46.

Similarly, the broader NSE Nifty tanked 204.95 points or 1.18 per cent to 17,196.70.

PowerGrid was the top loser in the Sensex pack, shedding 4.03 per cent, followed by Reliance Industries, Kotak Bank, Asian Paints, Bharti Airtel, Tech Mahindra and Maruti.

Only four index components finished in the green — L&T, IndusInd Bank, Tata Steel and UltraTech Cement, rising up to 0.72 per cent.

“Following a positive opening, benchmark indices gave up all gains led by losses in heavyweights in anticipation of the RBI meet next week. Meanwhile, investors were also cautious after India reported Omicron cases,” said Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services.

“However, global equities traded with slight gains recovering from yesterday’s broad based sell-off led by fears on new COVID variant and Fed chair’s comment on the bond-buying program.

“RBI’s monetary policy meeting will be a key market driver as investors await MPC’s policy decision which is broadly expected to hold an accommodative stance considering the uncertainty surrounding the new variant,” he added.

During the week, the Sensex rose 589.31 points or 1.03 per cent, while the Nifty advanced 170.25 points or 0.99 per cent.

“Markets remained cautious during the week with marginal gains. The focus seems to be shifting from premium Indian equities to relatively cheaper markets.

“In addition to this, the cautiousness was heightened by the unenthusiastic response towards India’s largest IPO (One97 Communications) … and a resurgence of COVID concerns across Europe,” said Shrikant Chouhan, Head of Equity Research (Retail), Kotak Securities.

The result season was mostly divided with companies showing strong signs of demand growth but at the same time, high raw material and input cost adding pressure on margins, he noted.

Sectorally, BSE energy, FMCG, bankex, finance and healthcare indices fell up to 2.30 per cent on Friday, while capital goods, industrials and basic materials ended with gains.

Broader BSE midcap index ended flat, while the smallcap gauge settled on a positive note.

Global equities rebounded from the Omicron-triggered sell-off, even as Chinese ride hailing giant Didi announcing its delisting in New York ratcheted up fears of fresh US-China tensions.

Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo ended with gains, while Hong Kong was in the red.

Stock exchanges in Europe were trading on a positive note in mid-session deals.

Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude surged 2.38 per cent to USD 71.32 per barrel.

The rupee slipped 14 paise to close at 75.16 (provisional) against the US dollar, tracking the massive sell-off in domestic equities.

Continuing their selling spree, foreign institutional investors offloaded shares worth a net Rs 909.71 crore on Thursday, as per exchange data.

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