The Indian equity benchmarks suffered their worst single-day drop since April 12 on Friday on weak global cues after investor sentiment was dented by detection of a new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant. The Sensex fell as much as 1,801 points or 3 per cent and Nifty 50 index briefly dropped below its important psychological level of 17,000 to hit an intraday low of 16,985. Both the benchmarks fell to their lowest level in three month
The Sensex fell 1,688 points or 2.87 per cent to close at 57,107 and Nifty 50 index dropped 510 points or 2.9 per cent to end at 17,026.
Global stocks tumbled on Friday and oil fell below $80 a barrel after news of a possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant sent investors scurrying to the safety of bonds, the yen and the Swiss franc.
European stocks plunged 2.7 per cent, on track for their worst day since September 2020, with travel and leisure stocks particularly badly hit.
Germany’s DAX sank 3 per cent and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 2.7 per cent to its lowest in more than a month.
Little is known of the variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, but scientists say it has an unusual combination of mutations, may be able to evade immune responses and could be more transmissible.
“Equity markets have plunged almost 2 per cent amid the emergence of a new, highly mutated Covid-19 variant. EU announced temporary ban of flights from South Africa and few EU countries are already under full lockdown scenario. Thus there is fear of this new variant spreading to other countries which might again derail the global economy. Already there is uncertainty as to when the US Fed will start raising interest rates. So markets might continue to reel under pressure and would actively track Covid situation globally,” Hemang Jani of brokerage firm Motilal Oswal said in a statement.
Selling pressure was broad-based as thirteen of 15 sector gauges compiled by the National Stock Exchange ended lower led by the Nifty Realty index’s over 6 per cent decline. Nifty Bank, Financial Services, Metal, PSU Bank, Private Bank, Consumer Durables and Oil & Gas indices also fell between 3.5-5 per cent.
On the other hand, pharma and healthcare indices ended higher.
Mid- and small-cap shares also faced selling pressure as Nifty Midcap 100 index fell 3.25 per cent and Nifty Smallcap 100 index declined 2.9 per cent.
JSW Steel was top Nifty loser, the stock fell 7.5 per cent to close at Rs 630. Tata Motors, Hindalco, Adani Ports, IndusInd Bank, Bharat Petroleum, Maruti Suzuki, Tata Steel, Bajaj Finance, NTPC, ONGC and Tata Consumer Products also fell between 5-7 per cent.
On the flipside, Cipla, Dr Reddy’s Labs, Divi’s Labs and Nestle India were among the notable gainers.
The overall market breadth was extremely negative as 2,241 shares ended lower while 1,070 closed higher on the BSE.