March 13, 2020 / 4:26 AM / 18 days ago

Trading in Indian stocks halted as virus panic triggers 10% plunge

* Nifty 50, Sensex crash about 10% each

* Trading to resume at about 0450 GMT

* Rupee hits record low at 74.5075

By Chris Thomas and Chandini Monnappa

BENGALURU, March 13 (Reuters) - The Indian stock market plunged to a three-year low on Friday, triggering a trading halt for the first time since 2009, as panic over the fast-spreading coronavirus sent world markets crashing amid fears of a global recession.

The NSE Nifty 50 index plunged 10.07% to 8,624.05 by 0353 GMT, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex sunk 9.8% to 29,564.58, with both indexes on course for their worst-ever week.

Trading on the exchanges is expected to resume at about 0450 GMT.

The rupee slid 0.2% on Friday to a record low of 74.5075 against the dollar.

India reported its first death from the virus late on Thursday, and new cases continued to be on the rise.

The virus, which originated in China, has spread quickly, killing several thousands and forcing Italy into lockdown. Financial markets have taken a severe beating over the last few weeks as the virus disrupted businesses across the globe.

“Fear is controlling markets right now, no one knows what is going to happen. Fear of death is more painful than death itself,” said Sumit Pokharna, vice-president, Kotak Securities.

Markets across the globe tanked after U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday set curbs on travel from Europe to contain the pandemic, with the European Central Bank’s decision to hold back on rate cuts adding to the rout.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe dropped 9.51%, while Dow futures were down about 1% in Asia trading after suffering its worst crash on Thursday since Black Monday in 1987.

Investors even fled safe-haven assets like gold and bonds to cover their losses.

“This is not a point where markets will be reacting to economic stimulus because of the social distancing that is in play. So in the near term, stimulus may not help cool off current panic,” said Anand James, chief market strategist at Geojit Financial Services.

In Mumbai, conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd was the biggest drag on the indexes, dropping as much as 9.5% to its lowest since July 2018.

HDFC Bank Ltd, India’s largest private-sector lender, shed 5.2%, while top IT firm Tata Consultancy Services Ltd plunged 10.4% to a near two-year low.

Aviation stocks Spicejet Ltd and Interglobe Aviation Ltd extended their rout, sinking 10% and 12.8%, respectively, on Friday.

India said on Wednesday it was restricting visit visas to halt the spread of the virus, leaving investors worried that domestic travel would fade. (Reporting by Chris Thomas and Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru)

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