The BSE Sensex slipped from record highs to end marginally lower on Wednesday while the Nifty edged up to a fresh closing record amid profit-booking in financial stocks and muted global cues. After touching a low of 44,169.97 during the session, the 30-share Sensex pared most losses to finish at 44,618.04, down 37.40 points or 0.08 per cent.
The broader NSE Nifty edged higher by 4.70 points or 0.04 per cent to end at its fresh closing record of 13,113.75. Banking and finance stocks bore the brunt of profit selling ahead of the RBI policy announcement this week. Kotak Bank was the top loser among Sensex stocks, dropping by 3.28 per cent.
HDFC Bank declined by 1.86 per cent, HDFC by 1.28 per cent and ICICI Bank by 0.99 per cent. SBI fell 0.5 per cent while Bajaj Finance shed 0.72 per cent. Larsen & Toubro dropped 0.16 per cent.
On the other hand, ONGC rose the most by 4.11 per cent, followed by Asian Paints (3.74 per cent) and Titan (3.48 per cent). Auto stocks gained after the companies reported sales growth in the domestic market in November, aided by robust offtake amid the festival season. Bajaj Auto rose by 2.86 per cent, Mahindra and Mahindra by 2.53 per cent and Maruti Suzuki by 1.47 per cent.
IT majors TCS and Infosys recovered from early lows to close higher by 0.81 per cent and 0.33 per cent, respectively. Global markets struggled to extend their recent bull run as investors monitored the coronavirus vaccine progress and stimulus talk in the US. Meanwhile, Britain became the first country to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to be rolled out as early as next week.
"After the bull run, banking stocks are taking a halt, in anticipation of the Supreme Court hearing on moratorium and ongoing MPC meeting while both the outcomes are unlikely to hurt the banking industry. The sector can reverse, as implication of moratorium is well factored and RBI is expected to maintain its accommodative stance with no change in rate given heightened inflation in consecutive months.
"Positively, more liquidity measures can be released, given weak economic outlook and to support the banking sector. Globally, the market is maintaining its gains, due to talks of stimulus and vaccination in the US and Europe. While plans of vaccination and good GST collection is helping India to attain a faster economic recovery," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services.
Sector-wise, BSE realty, metal, consumer durables, oil and gas, utilities and telecom spurted up to 3.05 per cent, while bankex and finance closed in the red. Other Asian markets were mixed, with the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo and the Shanghai Composite index in China edging 0.1 per cent higher, and South Korea's Kospi gaining 1.6 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.2 per cent while Australian shares closed almost flat. Bourses in Europe were trading lower in early deals. The rupee pared its initial gains and settled 13 paise down at 73.81 against the US dollar.