Domestic stock markets halted a four-day winning streak on Thursday, tracking weakness across Asian equities as investors weighed the prospect of global recovery amid widening restrictions in the US. The S&P BSE Sensex index fell 358.66 points - or 0.81 per cent - to hit 43,821.39 at the weakest level recorded in morning deals, and the broader NSE Nifty 50 benchmark slid to as low as 12,835.60, down 102.65 points - or 0.79 per cent - from its previous close. Selling pressure in banking and financial services shares pulled the markets lower, though buying interest in automobile and metal stocks arrested the fall.
However, the markets recovered most of initial losses in choppy trade. At 1:23 pm, the Sensex traded 62.23 points - or 0.14 per cent - lower at 44,117.82 while the Nifty was down 12.10 points - or 0.09 per cent - at 12,926.15.
UPL, Power Grid, Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and Bharti Airtel, trading between 1.18 per cent and 1.60 per cent, were the worst hit among 22 laggards in the Nifty basket of 50 shares.
On the other hand, Hero MotoCorp, Bajaj Finserv, Bharat Petroleum, Bajaj Finance and Tata Steel, up 1.99-4.29 per cent each, were the top gainers in the index.
HDFC Bank, HDFC, ICICI Bank and Infosys were the biggest drags on Sensex.
Analysts awaited news updates from a key Supreme Court hearing on interest waivers for loans under moratorium. The outcome of the case could have far-reaching consequences not only for millions of borrowers, but also for banks.
Share markets elsewhere in Asia eased from all-time highs on Thursday as widening COVID-19 restrictions in the US weighed on Wall Street, while bonds were underpinned by speculation the Federal Reserve would have to respond with more easing.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was last seen trading 0.50 per cent lower, though that was from a record peak. A jump in new cases in Tokyo resulted in the Nikkei 225 benchmark sliding 0.40 per cent lower, away from a 29-year closing top.
The E-Mini S&P 500 futures steadied, a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average - one of the three US stock benchmarks - ended down 1.16 per cent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq shed 1.16 per cent and 0.82 per cent respectively on Wednesday.
Investors in the US weighed surging COVID-19 infections and mounting shutdowns against encouraging vaccine developments.