Indian shares flat as Ukraine tensions offset Fed gains

A man wearing a protective mask walks past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India, March 13, 2020. REUTERS

Indian shares swung between gains and losses on Thursday, as traders weighed risks of an escalation in tensions surrounding Ukraine and minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting that struck a less-than-feared hawkish tone.

The NSE Nifty 50 index was flat at 17,313, as of 0443 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex  was down 0.15% at 57,908.74.

Indian markets gave up early gains, in line with broader Asia after a report that Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine accused Kyiv government forces of shelling their territory with mortars. 

“These kind of news or any escalation in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will make Indian markets very volatile,” said Prashanth Tapse, vice president (research), Mehta Equities.

Market expectations of U.S. rate hikes have come down following the Fed minutes, Tapse said, adding that if the Russia-Ukraine conflict did not settle, there was a chance that the Fed might even push its rate hike plans.

The Fed minutes showed that while policymakers agreed that it would “soon be appropriate” to raise rates, they would re-assess the rate hike timeline at each meeting.

In Mumbai, rate-sensitive banking stocks were the major drags, with the Nifty bank index down 0.7%.

Indian markets have been extremely volatile this week, with major indexes falling 3% on Monday before recovering most of the losses in the next two days. Markets are now down more than 7% from all-time highs scaled in October on expectations of rising interest rates globally.

Among individual stocks, Tata Motors rose as much as 2.6% after JP Morgan initiated coverage on stock with a price target of 630 rupees per share.

Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu

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