Mumbai: In volatile trading, equities fell for a second straight day as heavy losses in healthcare stocks countered advances in auto and banking sectors amid caution ahead of derivatives expiry and investors waiting for a speech by the US Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen.
In a see-saw trading, the benchmark BSE Sensex edged lower by 66 points to end at about two-week low of 24,900.46 while NSE Nifty fell by 18 points to slip below the 7,600-mark.
Pharma stocks took a heavy beating after some companies from the sector received observations from the US health regulator.
Lupin, which plummeted by more than 6 percent and was the worst performer from the Sensex pack, said it received a total of three observations relating to violation of production norms at manufacturing facilities at Mandideep, Madhya Pradesh from the US Food and Drug Administration.
Besides, Cipla plunged close to 4 percent and Dr Reddy's slipped nearly 3 percent to drag the overall BSE healthcare index by 2.52 percent. Natco Pharma had also received observations from the FDA after inspection of two facilities.
Caution also ruled as participants were seen offloading bets in futures and options segment before the March series expiry on Thursday.
"Trading ranges were constrained again, with weak F&O rollovers so far pointing towards a subdued derivatives expiry this Thursday. Cues from global markets also pointed towards caution," said Anand James, Chief Market Strategist, Geojit BNP Paribas.
Sensex stayed in the negative zone for most part of the day and hit a low of 24,835.56. However, it rebounded on better opening in Europe and recovered temporarily to a high of 25,079.35 before settling 65.94 points or 0.26 percent down at 24,900.46. The index tanked 371.16 points yesterday.
The broader NSE Nifty closed 18.10 points or 0.24 percent lower at 7,597.
Tata Motors emerged as the top gainer by surging 2.63 percent to Rs 372.80 followed by Maruti Suzuki by 2.61 percent to Rs 3,733.25 on hopes of encouraging monthly sale numbers.
Thanks to gains in Axis Bank, SBI and HDFC Bank, BSE baking index also firmed up by 0.42 percent on of hopes of 25 to 50 basis points rate by Reserve Bank in first bi-monthly monetary policy for 2016-17 on April 5.
Overseas, Asian markets ended mixed ahead of speech by Yellen on the US economy and monetary policy, while Europe was also higher in early deals.
Back home, in broader markets, mid-cap declined 0.21 percent while small-cap index ended lower by 0.27 percent.
Of the 30-share Sensex pack, 18 scrips ended lower while 12 gained.
Major losers were Lupin (6.27 percent), Cipla (3.83 percent), Dr Reddy's (2.98 percent), GAIL (2.88 percent), Sun Pharma (2.10 percent), BHEL (1.81 percent), NTPC (1.58 percent), HDFC (1.33 percent), L&T (1.05 percent), M&M (0.84 percent), ICICI Bank (0.84 percent), ITC (0.64 percent), ONGC (0.61 percent) and Infosys (0.48 percent).
However, Tata Motors rose by 2.63 percent followed by Maruti 2.55 percent, Axis Bank 1.55 percent, RIL (1.46 percent), Tata Steel (1.28 percent) and Bharti Airtel (1.27 percent).
Among BSE sectoral and industry indices healthcare fell by 2.59 percent, capital goods (0.99 percent), power (0.83 percent), utilities (0.76 percent), IT (0.41 percent) and FMGC (0.39 percent) while telecom rose by 1.59 percent followed by auto by 0.89 percent, metal by 0.40 percent and bankex 0.39 percent.
The market breadth remained negative as 1,699 shares ended lower, 947 closed higher while 163 ruled steady. The total turnover rose to Rs 3,595.61 crore from Rs 2,741.47 crore yesterday.