Mumbai: Benchmark indices closed up, but well off their intra-day highs as the trade deficit further widened in January, underscoring the continuing weakness in the economy.
The Sensex closed at 19608.08, up 47 points after slipping from an intra-day high of 19723.01. The Nifty closed at 5932.95, up 10.45 points, after touching 5,969.50 intra-day.
Shares got off to a rousing start and seemed set to maintain the momentum till the trade deficit numbers were announced. Exports rose 0.8 per cent, but this was offset by a 6.1 per cent increase in imports, widening the deficit for January to USD 20 billion, up from USD 17.6 billion in December.
The latest depressing data comes on the back of a lower GDP forecast for FY13, falling industrial output, and rising consumer inflation. Analysts and fund managers are now skeptical of a speedy recovery in corporate earnings, given the ground reality.
United Breweries shares fell about 9 per cent to Rs 642.50 and topped the list of losers, after an SBI-led consortium of lenders decided to call in their loans to the ailing Kingfisher Airlines, part of the UB group. There is speculation that United Breweries shares could be part of promoter Vijay Mallya's personal guarantee to the lenders.
Shares of UB group flagship United Spirits shares fell around 5 per cent to Rs 1,862, while trading in Kingfisher Airlines shares was frozen at the lower end of the 5 per cent intra-day circuit filter at Rs 10.54 after there were only sellers.
MCX was the other major loser of the day, falling over 6 per cent to Rs 1200, following the tepid start to MCX-SX's equity platform.
IT shares were among the best performers of the day as investors once again got into a defensive mode. HCL Tech and Mphasis led gainers, rising about 3-4 per cent.
Auto was the second best performing sector of the day even as it is set to end the current financial year on a dour note because of declining sales.
Metal, power and realty were the worst performers of the day.