Domestic stock markets are trading in the green, amid bouts of volatility, on Wednesday afternoon amid weakness in global equities as India entered the fifteenth day of a 21-day countrywide lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The S&P BSE Sensex has moved in a range of more than 1,600 points, touching 31227.97 and 29,602.94 at the strongest and weakest levels respectively. The broader NSE Nifty benchmark has touched an intraday high of 9131.70 and low of 8,653.90 thus far.
At 12:00 pm, the Sensex traded 138 points - or .4 per cent - higher at 30,217.24 while the Nifty was up 54 points - or 0.4 per cent - at 8,854. Pharma stocks led gains, while banking stocks had edged lower.
India VIX index, which gauges the expectation of volatility in the near term, has edged higher by 2.9 per cent to 53. Analysts say volatility cannot be ruled out as investors assess the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on global economy.
Market breadth favoured gains with an advance-decline ratio of almost 5:3, as 1444 stocks on the BSE traded higher while 578 moved lower.
Forty one stocks in the 50-scrip Nifty index moved higher. Top percentage gainers at the time were GAIL, Hindustan Unilever, Mahindra & Mahindra, HCL Tech and Cipla, trading between 3.4 per cent and 5.5 per cent higher.
Pharma stocks extended gains from the previous session. Cadila Healthcare soared 11.4 per cent as the government has permitted limited exports of anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. Cadila is the major manufacturer of the anti-malarial drug in the country. Divis Lab, Cipla, Sun Pharma and Dr Reddy's gained 2-5 per cent each as the Centre has eased curbs on exports of 24 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and their formulations,
"Hopes of the lockdown lifting in a staggered way post April 14 is fuelling the markets," news agency Reuters quoted Amit Kumar Gupta, portfolio manager at Adroit Financial Services, as saying in a report.
By next week, the government is expected to lift its 21-day lockdown that has rattled businesses and brought economic activity to a grinding halt. However, with the number of the coronavirus cases on the rise, it is unclear how the government plans to end the lockdown.
As of early Wednesday, the country reported over 4,500 infections and nearly 150 deaths.
Meanwhile, the rupee edged lower to 75.85 against the dollar, after opening weak at 75.83, at the interbank forex market.
Gold prices held steady as a stronger dollar countered risk-off sentiment stemming from fading optimism over signs of a slowing spread of the new coronavirus amid rising deaths. Spot gold was steady at $1,648.84 per ounce by 0406 GMT,
International oil markets were volatile, with prices rebounding in early Asia trade after sliding on Tuesday. Brent crude - the global benchmark for crude oil - rose by 74 cents to $32.61 a barrel.
On Tuesday, the first session of the holiday-shortened three-day trading week, the Sensex had risen 2,476.26 points (8.97 per cent) to end at 30,067.21, and the Nifty had settled at 8,792.20, up 708.40 points (8.76 per cent) from the previous close - the best day in absolute terms for both indices since 2009.