March 18, 2019 / 6:10 AM / 8 months ago

Indian shares inch higher; Maruti Suzuki falls on production cut report

* NSE index up 0.2 pct, BSE index up 0.18 pct

* Rupee hits over seven-month high

By Chandini Monnappa

March 18 (Reuters) - Indian shares rose for a sixth straight session on Monday, as strong foreign fund inflows and expectation of the current coalition government returning to power after the general election starting next month boosted investor confidence.

Also, helping investor sentiment were a stronger rupee, which rose to a more than seven-month high, and the strength in broader Asian markets on mounting speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will sound decidedly dovish at its policy meeting this week.

Net foreign portfolio inflows into Indian shares hit a 15-month high of $2.42 billion in February, a big swing from 2018’s net outflows of $4.4 billion.

“Strong FII inflows, a stronger rupee and positive global cues are driving the market higher,” said Siddhartha Khemka, head of retail research at Motilal Oswal Securities.

“Markets prefers political stability. Opinion polls suggest the return of the existing government — this expectation and change in sentiment towards election have helped.”

India has about 900 million citizens eligible to vote in the general election that will last over a month. The massive event will be held in seven stages and is scheduled to begin on April 11.

The broader NSE index was up 0.20 percent at 11,447.45 as of 0520 GMT, while the benchmark BSE index was 0.18 percent higher at 38,091.62.

Financials drove gains on the NSE index, with the Nifty Bank index rising 0.24 percent.

Axis Bank was among the top percentage gainers with a rise of 1.67 percent.

Energy stocks gained, with the Nifty Energy index rising 1.25 percent. Indian Oil Corp and Hindustan Petroleum were the top gainers, climbing 3.9 percent and 2.1 percent respectively.

Dewan Housing Finance Corp Ltd rose over 3 percent after Chief Financial officer Santosh Sharma was redesignated to another role.

Maruti Suzuki India Ltd was the biggest percentage loser, shedding 3.8 percent after a report that the company was estimated to have cut production by 26.8 pct to about 126,000 units. (Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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