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Indian shares close higher as financials gain, COVID-19 cases fall
Photo Credit: Reuters

Indian shares settled marginally higher on Monday, helped by gains in heavyweight financial stocks including State Bank of India, and as daily coronavirus infections fell further.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index closed 0.15% higher at 15,197.70, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.22% to 50,651.90. Both the indexes gained more than 3% last week.

The Nifty PSU Bank Index, which tracks state-owned banks, ended 2.13% higher, marking its fourth straight session of gains.

Private-sector lender HDFC Bank and State Bank of India were the top boosts to the Nifty 50, closing 0.8% and 2.7% higher, respectively.

SBI, the country's top lender, reported a record quarterly profit on Friday and said it did not see any concerns about its asset quality.

Lifting investor mood further, data from the health ministry showed that daily cases of the novel coronavirus stayed below the 300,000-mark for the eighth straight day. However, the death toll crossed 300,000.

A steady decline in fresh COVID-19 cases and hopes that lockdowns would be lifted sooner than expected helped the market extend its gains, said Vinod Nair, head of research at Geojit Financial Services.

"Positive quarterly earnings and easing asset quality woes helped banking stocks to attract buying interest while mid- and small-cap stocks outperformed," he said.

Shares of Panacea Biotech Ltd closed 3.4% higher after the Russian Direct Investment Fund said the drugmaker had started production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19.

Among losers, JSW Steel Ltd closed 2.4% lower after it said it was not looking at buying any overseas assets. Reuters and other media had reported earlier that the steel producer was considering a bid to acquire Liberty Steel in Britain as well as mills elsewhere.

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