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SENSEX CRASHES 321 POINTS

Markets reeled for the second consecutive day as the benchmark Sensex today plunged by over 321 points, with no let-up in selling by foreign investors ahead of the Union Budget and oil trying to find its bottom. Derivative contracts are set to expire tomorrow, which also held back investors. Fund managers are closely tracking the Railway Budget, which is due tomorrow, while the Economic Survey is slated for Friday. The Union Budget for 2016-17 is set to be presented on Monday. Asian shares fell, reflecting the weakness in crude oil prices, which went down further after major producer Saudi Arabia said no to any production cut in the near future in an already-oversupplied market. The 50-share NSE Nifty failed to hold on to the crucial 7,100-mark as it lost 90.85 points, or 1.28 per cent, to end at 7,018.70. The weak European and US macroeconomic data only fed to the nervousness. The 30-share Sensex, which started the session on a weaker note, plunged 321.25 points, or 1.37 per cent, to 23,088.93 at the close -- a nearly two-week low. The barometer had lost 379 in yesterday's trade. "The nearing of F&O expiry and the Budget are keeping the domestic market volatile. India is currently under-performing compared to other emerging markets due to the uncertainty regarding the Union Budget," said Vinod Nair, Head-Fundamental Research, Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services. As many as 23 Sensex stocks closed with losses, including BHEL, NTPC, Tata Motors, HDFC and ICICI Bank. However, Bharti Airtel, M&M, Asian Paints, Hindustan Unilever, Axis Bank, RIL and Infosys managed to register gains. The metal index bled the most, down 2.62 per cent, followed by healthcare (1.72 per cent), capital goods (1.67 per cent), banking (1.36 per cent) and PSU (1.29 per cent). The broader markets cut a sorry figure too, with BSE small-cap falling 1.15 per cent and mid-cap shedding 0.79 per cent. Foreign portfolio investors (FPI) sold shares worth a net Rs 289.66 crore yesterday, according to provisional data. Overseas, most Asian and European indices declined, tracking the overnight sell-off in the US after oil prices moved south.

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