Continuing its downward march for the fourth session, the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex today tumbled 155 points to end at a nearly three-week low of 19,593.28 on the eve of the RBI's monetary policy review.
Shares of fast moving consumer goods giants ITC and Hindustan Unilever, which posted Q1 earnings last week, declined after their recent rally and together contributed almost 100 points to the BSE Sensex fall.
The index fell on selling in FMCG, PSU, metal and realty stocks, while weak Asian cues amid mixed European openings also weighed on market sentiment.
The 30-share BSE Sensex initially touched a high of 19,751.03 and then declined on weak Asian trends to settle at 19,593.28, a fall of 154.91 points or 0.78 per cent. That was the lowest close since 19,294.12 on July 10.
The National Stock Exchange's NSE Nifty index fell 54.55 points, or 0.93 per cent, to 5,831.65. The SX40 index on the MCX-SX closed at 11,695.58, down 0.81 per cent.
"Caution was seen ahead of RBI's monetary policy," said Nidhi Saraswat, a senior research analyst at Bonanza Portfolio Ltd. "RBI has been taking measures to curb rupee weakening against dollar and market has reacted negatively to it in last few weeks, particularly the rate-sensitive stocks being the worst hit."
HDFC Bank, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, ONGC, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Industries, SBI, Coal India, Hindalco, Bajaj Auto, Sterlite Industries, Maruti Suzuki and Tata Steel also closed with losses.
Among the 13 sectoral indices, 10 closed with losses. The BSE-IT index was the top gainer after Wipro climbed 6.71 per cent on better-than-expected Q1 results declared late on Friday and its upbeat revenue guidance for the second quarter.
The RBI's First Quarter Review of Monetary Policy is scheduled tomorrow. Besides, the US Federal Reserve's two-day meet on July 30 and 31 on policy led operators and investors to tread cautiously.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the mandate of a central bank is not only to ensure price stability but also to promote growth and generate employment. Speaking in Ahmedabad, the minister said he did not expect commercial banks to hike interest rates.
Most Asian stock markets ended lower with Japanese equities falling as a firm yen further dragged down exporters, while Chinese shares lost ground amid economic worries. Key indices in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan dropped by 0.54 per cent to 3.22 per cent, while Singapore's Strait Times inched up.
European markets traded mixed, with indices in France and Germany up 0.46 per cent to 0.49 per cent, while UK's FTSE eased by 0.11 per cent.
In the domestic markets, 20 scrips in the Sensex ended lower. The major losers were Hindalco (4.03 pc), HUL (3.71 pc), Sterlite Ind (3.66 pc), Dr Reddy's Lab (3.53 pc), Coal India (3.19 pc), ITC (2.88 pc), ONGC (2.07 pc), Maruti Suzuki (1.81 pc), HDFC Bank (1.74 pc), Bajaj Auto (1.55 pc), Tata Steel (1.46 pc), SBI (1.18 pc) and BHEL (1.16 pc).
Jindal Steel rose 4.89 pc, followed by Tata Motors (2.14 pc) and Sun Pharma (1.91 pc).
Among the sectoral indices, S&P BSE-FMCG dropped 2.67 pc, followed by S&P BSE-PSU 1.80 pc, S&P BSE-Metal 1.80 pc, S&P BSE-Realty 1.65 pc, S&P BSE-Bankex 1.20 pc, S&P BSE-Oil &Gas 1.16 pc and S&P BSE-CD 1.06 pc. The S&P BSE-IT moved up 0.77 pc.
The market breadth remained negative, with 1,400 scrips declining, 830 shares gaining and 151 scrips unchanged. Total turnover dropped to Rs 1,758.93 crore from Friday's Rs 2,100.94 crore.
Meanwhile, foreign institutional investors pumped in Rs 278.04 crore on Friday, according to provisional data with the stock exchanges.