The BSE benchmark Sensex today washed out initial gains to close flat near its one-week low ahead of third quarter earnings of Infosys and November industrial production data tomorrow.
The Sensex ended 3.04 points lower at 19,663.55 after touching the day's high of 19,783.75 on hopes of fuel price hikes soon after government yesterday hiked railway passenger fares after nearly a decade.
The Sensex had shed 76 points on Wednesday.
Brokers said after the initial activity today, investors focussed on Infosys earnings and IIP data slated for release tomorrow.
"The government's decision to hike railway fares which will help in achieving fiscal consolidation, failed to enthuse investors sentiment in today's trade. Quarterly numbers especially that of Infosys will drive sentiment on Friday," said Amar Ambani, Head of Research, IIFL.
Smart gains achieved by heavyweights like ONGC, HDFC Bank, Tata Motors and ITC outweighed by falls in TCS, HDFC, BHEL and Bharti Airtel.
Any greater-than-expected contraction in IIP data will be a crucial signal for the RBI to cut rates in its third quarter monetary review polocy meeting on January 29, traders added.
Selling was seen mostly in frontline stocks while second-line counters attracted good buying support, indicating more retail participation, analysts said.
The broader S&P CNX Nifty of the NSE also eased by 2.85 points or 0.05 per cent at 5,968.65.
Shares from power, pharma, metal and capital goods attracted profit-booking while banking and refinery stocks saw some demand.
Asian stocks finished higher today on better than expected Chinese economic data. Key indices in China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan closed up between 0.18-0.94 per cent.
European markets also displayed a positive trend in the afternoon trade. The CAC was up by 0.04 per cent, the DAX by 0.21 per cent and the FTSE by 0.13 per cent.
Back home, 23 out of 30 Sensex-based scrips ended lower while others finished up. BHEL was the top loser with a fall of 2.19 per cent, followed by Hindalco (1.52 pc), TCS (1.35 pc), Sterlite Ind (1.28 pc), Sun Pharma (0.99 pc), Bharti Airtel (0.99 pc), NTPC (0.93 pc), Gail India (0.88 pc), HUL (0.71 pc) and HDFC (0.67 pc).
However, ONGC rose by 3.41 per cent, followed by Tata Motors (2.07 pc), HDFC Bank (1.24 pc) and SBI (0.70 pc).
Among sectoral indices, the BSE-Power declined by 0.93 per cent, followed by BSE-HC (0.70 pc), BSE-Metal (0.63 pc) and BSE-CG (0.62 pc) while BSE-Bankex firmed up by 0.62 per cent and BSE-Oil&Gas by 0.47 per cent.
The total market breadth remained negative with 1,797 stocks losing ground against 1,183 that finishing with gains.
Total turnover was relatively higher at Rs 3,034.41 crore from Rs 2,535.07 crore yesterday.
Meanwhile, Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) bought shares worth Rs 848.95 crore yesterday, as per provisional data from the stock exchanges.