Mumbai: India's benchmark stock index had the longest losing run in more than five weeks amid concern the withdrawal of the government's biggest partner from the ruling alliance may jeopardize economic reforms.
The S&P BSE Sensex dropped for the fourth day, losing 0.7 per cent to 18,884.19 at close in Mumbai, the longest stretch of losses since February 11. Volumes were 24 per cent higher than the 30-day average. ICICI Bank, India's third-largest lender by value, fell to a six-month low. ONGC, the nation's biggest explorer, retreated to a two-month low.
The former largest ally of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ruled out a patch-up after it quit the coalition over policy toward war crimes in Sri Lanka.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's (DMK) exit has left Manmohan 44 seats short of the halfway mark in the lower house of parliament and more reliant on regional parties outside the alliance to win the passage of legislation.
"The market believes the reforms agenda will temporarily be put on the back burner and the government's focus will possibly return to self-preservation," Manishi Raychaudhuri, head of Indian equity research at BNP Paribas Securities (Asia), told Bloomberg TV India yesterday.
ICICI Bank sank 3 per cent to Rs1,001, the lowest close since Sept. 13. HDFC Bank, India's largest lender by value, slid 1 per cent to Rs625. State Bank of India, the biggest by assets, lost 3.8 per cent to Rs2,120. The S&P BSE Bankex lost 2.1 per cent to close below its 200-day average for the first time since September 5.
ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank were involved in money laundering, news website Cobrapost reported last week. ICICI Bank on March 16 suspended 18 staff members and HDFC Bank hired Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India to probe the report.
The Reserve Bank of India is collecting information on the report, deputy governor Urjit Patel said on March 14.
"There's concern greater Reserve Bank scrutiny on private banks will lead to more restrictions on lending," A.K. Prabhakar, senior vice president of equity research at Anand Rathi Financial Services in Mumbai, said by e-mail. ONGC, the nation's biggest explorer, retreated 2.9 per cent to Rs300, the lowest since January11. Mahindra & Mahindra fell 0.6 per cent to Rs873. Utility NTPC dropped 3.4 per cent to Rs139, the lowest close since November 2008.
Manmohan is battling to refocus the government ahead of an election next year, ending two years of criticism over alleged corruption and a slowing economy.
India's economy will grow at 5 per cent this fiscal year, the slowest in a decade.
Bills to boost foreign investment in pensions and insurance are among those the government wants to pass.