Tensions in the Middle East spooked markets today as the Sensex tanked over 650 points, its worst fall in almost three months, and the rupee fell 34 paise against US dollar while gold sparkled on safe-haven appeal.
A bout of risk-aversion on Saudi Arabia launching strikes against Yemen rebels triggered a global sell-off. Oil prices rose by a hefty 5 per cent on supply concerns. This had a rub-off effect on Indian stocks and rupee, said analysts.
In the local share market, investors were also seen squaring up their positions on the last day of March month expiry in the derivatives segment, exacerbating selling pressure, they added.
The BSE 30-share Sensex remained in the red through out the session as selling pressure gathered momentum in the last one hour. Finally, it ended 654.25 points, or 2.33 per cent down, at 27,457.58, its weakest closing since January 14.
The index has now lost 1,278.80 points in seven straight sessions. The index’s drop today was its steepest since 854.85-point fall on January 6.
The 50-share NSE Nifty also slipped below the 8,400-level by plunging 2.21 per cent, or 188.65 points, to close at 8,342.15. Selling pressure was broad-based as IT, banking, metal and healthcare stocks were amongst the worst hit.
In tandem with stock markets, the rupee too continued its yesterday’s weakness and depreciated by another 34 paise to close at 62.67 against the dollar at the forex market. Capital outflow worries amid heavy demand for the US currency from importers also weighed on the sentiment.
Other Asian markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed 0.13 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei plunged 1.39 per cent.
Gold soared as its safe-haven appeal rose over Middle-East unrest. The commodity closed at Rs 26,950 per 10 gm in Delhi’s bullion market after the precious metal climbed above USD 1,200 an ounce to trade at USD 1,208.60.
In Mumbai, standard gold (99.5 purity) shot up by Rs 390 to end at Rs 26,690 per 10 grams from overnight closing level of Rs 26,300.
Geo-political tension is driving up precious metals prices, along with speculation that the Federal Reserve will delay raising interest rates.