The BSE Sensex snapped a four-day winning streak on Wednesday to post its biggest fall in two weeks as auto shares were hit by weak March sales while recent out-performers, such as Larsen & Toubro, retreated.
Continued political uncertainty and worries about early elections also weighed on market sentiment, dealers said.
The Sensex ended the day at 18,801.64, down 239.31 points, or 1.26 per cent. The Nifty closed at 5,672.90, losing 75.20 points, or 1.31 per cent.
The markets started on a flat to negative note on Wednesday, as investors turned cautious ahead of the January-March earnings due starting next week. They plunged deep into the red in the last hour of trading with the Sensex falling more than 300 points and the Nifty breaking below the 5,700 mark after LK Advani, the BJP’s senior-most leader, said today that Lok Sabha elections could be held earlier than scheduled, even this year.
“It is possible that Lok Sabha polls can happen in 2013…it is possible that they could be held with state elections later this year,” Mr Advani said in Uttar Pradesh. Five major states vote for new Assemblies this year. Lok Sabha elections are due only in May 2014.
Of the 30 Sensex stocks, 26 ended in the red. Bharti Airtel and Bajaj Auto were the biggest losers on the index, down nearly 4 per cent each. Tata Motors (3.45 per cent), L&T (3 per cent) and Sterlite Industries (2.8 per cent) were the other significant losers on the index at close.
Only Sun Pharmaceuticals (1.5 per cent), NTPC (0.94 per cent), Tata Power (0.73 per cent) and ITC (0.24 per cent) bucked the trend and ended in the positive territory.
The Sensex posted its biggest daily percentage fall since March 19, erasing a good chunk of its 1.9 per cent gain over the past four previous trading sessions.
With inputs from Reuters.