Indian Shares Take Breather Ahead Of GDP Data; Vodafone Surges

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By Sachin Ravikumar

BENGALURU, May 29 (Reuters) - Indian shares paused on Friday after two days of strong gains, led by a pullback in banking stocks, ahead of the release of domestic GDP data, while heightened U.S.-China tensions further weakened sentiment.

Banking stocks fell the most, following a nearly 10% rise for the Nifty banking index in the past two sessions.

The index was down 1.3%, and index heavyweight HDFC Bank Ltd fell 1.8%.

Gross domestic product (GDP) data is likely to show India's economy grew at its slowest pace in at least two years during the January-March quarter, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit already declining consumer demand.

The true effect of the pandemic, however, will likely be reflected only in India's April-June GDP data as the country went into a lockdown from late March.

Markets will await news about a further easing of lockdown curbs, which could help boost demand and support economic activity, analysts said.

"The lockdown and the government's views on its extension, or further relaxation will have more bearing on the minds of investors," said Siddhartha Khemka, head of retail research at Motilal Oswal Financial in Mumbai.

"The only concern for markets is on the demand side. Will there be a demand recovery."

India has been gradually easing lockdown restrictions, and is expected to announce further guidelines in the coming days.

The NSE Nifty 50 index was down 0.22% at 9,469.65 by 0450 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex fell 0.44% to 32,057.13.

The Nifty 50 had gained 5.1% over the past sessions.

Shares in Vodafone Idea Ltd jumped 25% and hit an upper limit after a report that Google was eyeing a stake in the telecom firm.

Meanwhile, other Asian stock markets pulled back, as investors awaited the United States' response to China tightening control over the city of Hong Kong.
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)