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Saturday, Jul 24, 2004

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Cement, steel stocks shine in dull day

Nath Balakrishnan

STOCKS belonging to the cement and the steel sectors exhibited firm trends on what was otherwise a day of range-bound trade during the last session of the week.

The BSE Sensex oscillated within the 5030-5080-point band during intra-day trade; it hit a low of 5034.2 points at the end of the first hour of trading before rebounding in the post-afternoon session to end at 5073.34 points, a gain of 19.05 points over its close on Thursday.

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Correspondingly, the Nifty moved up by 3.50 points to breach the 1600-point mark and end at 1601.6 points.

On the BSE, advances outpaced declines, albeit by a slender margin of 12 to 10.

The bulk of the gains made by the Sensex was accounted for by Reliance Industries, which moved up by Rs 15.5 to finish at Rs 466.2 on the back of trading volumes of about 40-lakh shares. Reliance's move contributed as much as 15.5 points to the rise in the value of the Sensex. Cigarette major ITC and technology bellwether Infosys Technologies also ended the day higher.

The sector that stood out within the Sensex was cement, with all the players from the sector, which are part of the index such as Grasim, ACC and Gujarat Ambuja registering sharp gains. Usually, with the commencement of the monsoon season, construction activity tends to slacken and this, in turn, leads to lower realisations for cement producers. However, with the news trickling in the monsoon has not picked up as anticipated, it is expected that cement producers can hold prices firm.

The firm trends in the prices of cement stocks was seen in quite a few stocks outside of the index, too. Madras Cements, India Cements, Prism Cement, Mysore Cements and Gujarat Sidhee Cement were some of the stocks that posted gains.

Stocks in the steel sector, too, had their share of the limelight. The strong earnings card put out by major Tata Steel appeared to have a catalysing effect on the prices of a few other stocks within the sector. While Tata Steel itself was a marginal gainer (up by Rs 0.50 at Rs 363.95), the impact on other stocks was more pronounced. Stocks such as Jindal Vijaynagar Steel, Steel Authority of India, Bhushan Steel and Uttam Galva Steels were some stocks that posted smart gains.

It was also a day when quite a few companies put out their quarterly earnings card. Tech major Wipro was among the first off the blocks, declaring results prior to the opening of the market. On the back of a strong rise in earnings of about 70 per cent (on a year-on-year basis), the stock spurted in early hour trades to touch a high of Rs 546.9; thereafter, as trading progressed, the stock did tend to surrender most of its gains and ended at Rs 529.25, up by Rs 5.1 compared to its close on Thursday.

The other result that was keenly awaited was that of telecom behemoth Bharti Televentures. Though earnings registered an almost ten-fold rise on a year-on-year basis, the street appeared to be none too enthused by the numbers. The stock, which had run up sharply in the homestretch to the earnings announcement, declined by Rs 12.3 to end at Rs 152.35, on robust trading volumes of about 60-lakh shares. On a sequential basis, however, Bharti has seen reduction in subscriber additions by about 10 per cent (9 - lakh subscribers added during the quarter); there has also been a decline in average revenue per user, indicative of lower-paying customers entering its fold.

A few other stocks that posted gains include Adani Exports Amtek Auto, Cranes Software, Hexaware Technologies and Blue Dart Express.

Other prominent stocks that ended the day in the red included IBP, Ranbaxy, Dredging Corporation, Baja Auto and Pfizer.

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