Mumbai: The BSE Sensex eased 0.1 percent in choppy trade on Thursday as investors braced for the coming holiday season when foreign funds usually stay away.
Technology, auto and bank stocks cushioned the fall that was led down by energy major Reliance Industries and top telecom major Bharti Airtel.
"There is a sheer lack of news flow, so there is no reason for the market to break out or fall," said Hitesh Agrawal, head of research at Angel Broking.
"This trend could continue at least until January as foreign funds will be completely out of the market during the holiday season."
The 30-share BSE index closed down 0.11 percent at 16,894.25, while 16 components rose.
"Local insurance and funds are not putting in money aggressively. We will still continue to see rangebound activity till the end of the month," said Deven Choksey, chief executive at brokerage KR Choksey.
Reliance Industries fell 1.2 percent to 1,034.05 rupees, its lowest close in more than a month on uncertainty over its proposed bid to buy bankrupt petrochemicals firm LyondellBasell
Bharti lost 0.8 percent to Rs.323.20, a day after rising 2.8 percent on news it plans to buy Bangladesh's Warid Telecom for a reported $900 million from Abu Dhabi Group.
Export-focused technology firms were among the gainers on the back of the Federal Reserve's confidence about the US economy and helped by a weaker rupee.
Tata Consultancy Services rose 1.3 percent to Rs.722.65, while bellwether Infosys Technologies nudged up 0.65 percent to Rs.2,561.35.
Financial stocks climbed after investors felt recent falls were excessive. The sector index has dropped 3.1 percent this month on fears the central bank may look to tighten monetary policy sooner than expected following rising inflation that could touch 7 percent by March.
Top lender State Bank of India rose 0.6 percent to 2,165.45 rupees and ICICI Bank inched up 0.3 percent to Rs.825.45.
Largest-listed developer DLF fell nearly 4 percent to Rs.365.35 rupees on worries higher mortgage rates would impact sales just when property demand had started recovering.
In the broader market, 1,643 advances led 1,182 losers on low volume of 328.7 million shares.
The 50-share NSE index was down marginally at 5,041.75 points.
India's two top stock exchanges postponed by two weeks moves to extend their trading hours, bowing to criticism from brokers who said the infrastructure needed for beginning trading earlier in the day was absent.
First Published: Thursday, December 17, 2009, 17:32