Mumbai: Hit by heavy selling in last hour of trade, the BSE benchmark Sensex on Wednesday fell for the first time in five days losing 239 points to close at a one-week low of 18,801.64 on concerns over corporate earnings, renewed fears of early general elections and a weak global trend.
The Bombay Stock Exchange 30-share Sensex resumed lower at 19,034.00. After trading in a narrow 100-point band, heavy selling in RIL, L&T, ICICI Bank, Bharti and the auto pack dragged the Sensex into negative zone.
It finally ended at 18,801.64, a loss of 239.31 points or 1.26 percent, snapping the Sensex's four-day long winning run where it gained 359.53 points. This is Sensex's lowest close since 18,704.53 on March 26.
Similarly, the NSE 50-share Nifty also plunged by 75.20 points or 1.31 percent to end at 5,672.90. Across the markets, investor wealth amounting to Rs 66,000 crore was eroded by today's fall in stocks.
Brokers said the market has been lacking positive triggers while reports of lower quarterly earnings by companies in the fourth quarter sparked selling.
Sanjeev Zarbade, Vice President, Private Client Group Research, Kotak Securities said: "Sensex came under severe selling pressure especially in the last hour of the session. Likely reasons for the market fall could be speculation about early general elections and weak macroeconomic datapoints."
Realty, capital goods, auto and metal shares were among the worst performers, while pharma and FMCG shares managed to close in the positive zone.
Automakers lead falls on concern over slowing vehicle sales and the sectoral index dropped 2.23 percent led by stocks of Tata Motors, Bajaj Auto and Maruti Suzuki. Bharti Airtel, the biggest mobile-phone services provider, fell by 3.95 percent.
Besides the country's private sector output for the month of March witnessing the slowest pace of expansion in 17 months, the sentiment further dampened on weak trend in Asia and lower opening in Europe, traders said.
Asian stocks ended mixed as indices in Japan, Singapore and Taiwan rose in 0.13-2.99 percent range while indices in China, Hongkong and South Korea eased in 0.11-0.15 percent range. European stocks were trading lower as investors remained cautious ahead of central bank meetings and US employment data as indices in France, Germany and the UK eased by 0.14-0.39 percent.
Turning to the domestic market, 26 scrips out of 30-share Sensex pack ended lower while remaining four finished higher.
Major losers from Sensex were Bharti Airtel (3.95 percent), Bajaj Auto (3.68 percent), Tata Motors (3.45 percent), L&T (3.01 percent), Sterlite Ind (2.79 percent), Hindalco (2.58 percent), Gail India (2.25 percent), Hero Motocorp (2.23 percent), RIL Ind (2.16 percent), Coal India (2.04 percent) and ONGC (2.02 percent).
M&M (1.96 percent), HUL (1.74 percent), ICICI Bank (1.62 percent), SBI (1.53 percent), TCS (1.49 percent) and BHEL (1.16 percent) also bore losses.
Brokerage Morgan Stanley said in a report that if performance is an indication, the market is "dismissing the prospects of an earnings recovery".
In sectoral performance today, the S&P BSE-Realty dropped by 2.68 percent, followed by S&P BSE-CG (2.29 percent), S&P BSE-Auto (2.23 percent), S&P BSE-Metal (2.08 percent), S&P Oil&Gas (1.82 percent), S&P Bankex (1.50 percent), S&P BSE-CD (1.41 percent), S&P BSE-Teck (1.23 percent) and S&P BSE-PSU (1.21 percent).
However, S&P BSE-Healthcare and S&P BSE-Power ended up by 0.17 percent and 0.06 percent respectively.
Total market breadth turned negative 1,449 stocks ended in red while 1,313 finished in green and 131 ruled steady.
Total turnover rose further to Rs 1,963.93 crore from Rs 1,801.06 crore on Tuesday.
Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 45.41 crores yesterday, as per provisional data from the stock exchanges.