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Sensex, Nifty decline as firms flag lockdown damage
Photo Credit: Reuters

Indian shares ended lower on Wednesday as companies started laying out the extent of the damage to their businesses from an ongoing coronavirus-led lockdown that has brought Asia's third-largest economy to a standstill.

The broader NSE Nifty 50 index closed down 4% at 8,253.8 and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex ended 4.08% lower at 28,265.31.

Indian carmakers reported a drop in sales, with market leader Maruti Suzuki registering a 16% fall for March, while Tata Steel said it has started to scale back production in some facilities.

To check the spread of the virus, India enforced a 21-day lockdown last week. Active coronavirus cases rose to 1,466 as of Wednesday morning, while 38 people have died from infection, government data showed.

"We are well into the lockdown right now and the data has been disappointing," said Anita Gandhi, director at Arihant Capital Markets. "It is likely that this will continue even next month. Markets are taking that into account."

"[Auto sales] fall is more than expected and came at a time when the industry is already facing many uncertainties," Gandhi said.

Private-sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank fell more than 8% and conglomerate Larsen and Toubro shed 4% after MSCI's comments on foreign portfolio investor (FPI) limits for Indian companies announced last year.

MSCI said it will defer any changes to its indexes until it saw the "practical implementation" of changes to foreign portfolio investor limit of Indian companies announced last year.

The changes by MSCI to its indexes would have "practically led to $14-15 billion of inflows into Indian equities by May," said Ajay Bodke, chief executive and chief portfolio manager at Prabhudas Lilladher in Mumbai.

"This would have been manna from heaven for India," he said.

Banks and IT stocks led the declines. The Nifty banking index, which tracks both state-owned and private-sector lenders, closed down 4.89%.

The Nifty IT index fell over 5%, dragged lower by a 6.4% fall in shares of Tata Consultancy Services, India's second-most valuable stock.

Motorcycle maker Hero Motocorp advanced 2.71% to top the list of gainers on the blue-chip index.

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