Stocks up for second day



MUMBAI: Indian stocks gained for a second day amid optimism the government will succeed in pushing its plan to allow foreign investment in the country's retailing industry before lawmakers vote on the issue.

The BSE India Sensitive Index, or Sensex, rose 0.2 per cent to 19,394.48 at the close, holding at a 19-month high. Volumes in the measure exceeded the 30-day average by 25 per cent, data compiled shows. Sterlite, the largest copper producer, rallied 5.3 per cent as the metal jumped to more than a six-week high in London.

Tata Steel climbed 2.1 per cent. Pantaloon Retail India, the largest supermarket operator that's not part of the Sensex, climbed to the highest close in more than a year.

"The market is certainly discounting that the government will be able to get this reform through," Amit Khurana, director-research at Dolat Capital Market, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV India.

Lawmakers will vote today on whether to back a government decision to allow overseas retail chains to enter India, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking a victory that may enable him to silence criticism of the biggest embrace of overseas investment in a decade.

Offshore funds were net buyers of local shares for a 14th day yesterday, taking net purchases this year to $20.4 billion, the most among 10 Asian markets, excluding China, data shows.

The Sensex has increased 25 per cent this year, driven by foreign flows and policy measures announced by the government since September. The gauge rallied 4.5 per cent last week as data showing economic expansion slowed last quarter to match a three-year low stoked speculation the government will take more steps to boost growth and investment.

Sterlite rallied 5.3 per cent to Rs112.85, its highest close since August 21. Tata Steel, India's biggest producer of the metal, added 2.1 per cent to Rs398.20, its highest level in almost a month. Aluminum producer Hindalco Industries climbed 3.5 per cent to Rs121.15.

 Tata Motors, the owner of British luxury car brands Jaguar and Land Rover, rose 1.3 per cent to Rs274.95. The company plans to set up joint ventures with South Korean firms, 'Financial Chronicle' reported, citing an official.
 
Infosys, India's second-largest software exporter, slumped 2.3 per cent to Rs2,382.50, the most since October 12. The stock will be replaced by Facebook on the Nasdaq-100 Index next week, Nasdaq OMX Group said.

Pantaloon jumped 3.3 percent to Rs237.65, the highest close since September 22 last year. Shoppers Stop surged 7.5 per cent to Rs464.70, the highest since July 25, 2011, and Trent part of the Tata group, rallied 4.8 per cent to a record Rs1,274.35.

The prime minister began the biggest policy overhaul in a decade in September to spur foreign investments to revive growth. Gross domestic product grew 5.3 per cent in the quarter ended September 30 from a year ago, down from 5.5 per cent the previous quarter, government data showed last week.

While the September move to enable companies like Wal-Mart Stores to open stores doesn't need parliamentary approval to become law, rejection of the proposals in yesterday's ballot would expose the weakness of Singh's minority government and sap investor enthusiasm for the centerpiece of his policy drive.

Thirty-day volatility in the Sensex was at 10.92, compared  to the year's lowest reading of 9.06 set on November 26, data shows. The gauge is trading at 15.8 times
estimated earnings, the highest level since February, compared to the MSCI Emerging Markets Index's 11.8 times, according to data.

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