Indian shares end choppy session higher after positive vaccine news
Photo Credit: Reuters

Indian shares closed higher in a volatile session on Thursday after the government vowed to speed up COVID-19 vaccine approvals, with drug firms and private-sector lenders leading the gains.

The NSE Nifty 50 index ended 0.5% higher at 14,581.45, while the S&P BSE Sensex gained 0.5% to 48,803.68.

The government said it would decide on emergency use applications for foreign COVID-19 vaccines already approved in some Western nations and Japan within three working days from application.

The move came as fresh coronavirus cases in the country hit a record of more than 200,000, prompting the national capital of Delhi to announce movement restrictions for weekends.

The country's richest state Maharashtra - home to financial hub Mumbai - on Wednesday imposed a complete lockdown.

Pharmaceutical companies rose 1.4% on Thursday amid rising demand for drugs, including remdesivir.

"Pharma companies are also benefiting as the need for hospitals, medicines, and testing clinics continue to rise alongside rising cases," said KK Mittal, investment advisor at Venus India.

Private banks ended the session 0.8% higher, with HDFC Bank Ltd jumping 2.1%.

Expectations of robust earnings results from the private banks were driving interest in the sector, Mittal said.

IT services heavyweight Infosys Ltd was the biggest drag on the benchmark index, even after it reported a rise in quarterly profit and forecast higher annual revenue for the year.

Metal stocks advanced 1.4% as iron ore prices surged on strong demand.

Auto stocks were about 1.3% lower, with Eicher Motors dropping over 3%.

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