Indian shares rise after Fed holds rates; private-sector banks gain

BENGALURU, March 18 (Reuters) – Indian shares clocked broad-based gains on Thursday, as global sentiment improved after the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged to keep its benchmark overnight interest rate near zero.

The NSE Nifty 50 index rose 0.66% to 14,818.10 by 0440 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex gained 0.62% to 50,113.67, ahead of the weekly expiry of derivative contracts.

Indian benchmark indexes have fallen every day this week and they closed 1% lower on Wednesday, as a fresh surge in domestic COVID-19 cases and rising U.S. bond yields hurt risk appetite.

The country reported its highest rise in daily COVID-19 cases in more than three months on Thursday.

However, the focus was off rising infections as Indian equities joined a global rally, with 12 major sectoral indexes trading higher.

Equities in Asia gained on the U.S. central bank’s views, with the MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan adding nearly 1%.

“Fed action has been decent. This will ensure that foreign institutional investor flows will not get disturbed and India is in a very sweet spot right now,” said Rusmik Oza, head of fundamental research at Kotak Securities.

Private-sector lenders HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank were the top two boosts to the Nifty 50, adding over 1% each. While both the stocks slid in every session this week, Thursday’s gains bring their weekly rise to roughly 1.35% each.

State-run banks, which slumped 3.77% on Wednesday, rose 1.92%.

Shares of Vodafone Idea jumped 3.55% after data showed that the telecom operator added customers to its network for the first time in 15 months in January.

Recent high-flying IT stocks gave up gains and the Nifty IT index inched 0.57% lower. Still, it is up nearly 1% so far this week.

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