AFTER what seemed like it would be another day when the benchmark indices set a scorching pace, Monday's trading session at the stock markets witnessed a reversal of trend during the last hour.
Staying nearly a percentage point higher than their previous close during most of the day, the major market indices looked set to post another consecutive day of respectable gains.
However, the sudden surge in selling pressure towards the close of trade on Monday upset the bull operators' applecart and nearly wiped out all the gains from the earlier part of the trading session.
The Sensex opened the day marginally lower than its previous close at 6,747 points. On sustained buying support, the index quickly climbed on to touch its intra-day high of 6,814 points.
After remaining range-bound in the whereabouts of 6,800 points, Sensex stocks came under heavy selling pressure towards the last hour of trading at the exchange. The rise in bear activity pushed down the index to the intra-day low level of 6,741 points.
Later, the index just barely managed to close in positive territory, after recovering from the intra-day low, at 6,758 points. The traded value of Sensex stocks was low at Rs 539.8 crore.
Of the Sensex 30, 16 stocks posted gains while 14 lost ground.
The story was not much different at the NSE, where the fifty-share S&P CNX Nifty index closed the day at nearly the previous close level after remaining in positive territory, including an intra-day high that was more than 17 points higher than the previous close.
The sectors that were in the limelight on Monday included public sector banks, non-banking finance companies, cement and public sector undertakings.
Select pharma, auto and energy stocks were also among the stocks favoured by investors on Monday.
The market seemed to have taken a fancy to banking sector stocks after the Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram's claim that public sector banks would be allowed more autonomy.
Cement stocks seemed to be looking up after news of their good performance last month perked up buying support.
Frontline information technology stocks were battered during the last hour of trade on Monday.
As a result, stocks like Infosys Technologies, TCS and Wipro were seen closing in the red.
Among the biggest gainers in the Sensex were NTPC (up 3.5 per cent), HDFC Bank (up 2.67 per cent), State Bank of India (up 2.42 per cent), ACC (up 1.83 per cent), HDFC Ltd (up 1.75 per cent), Ranbaxy Laboratories and Tata Power (both up about 1.55 per cent) and ONGC (up 1.11 per cent).
The other gainers included Bajaj Auto, Bharti TeleVentures, BHEL, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, Gujarat Ambuja Cements, L&T, Maruti Udyog and Reliance Energy.
The losers included Cipla, Grasim Industries, Hero Honda, Hindalco, Hindustan Lever, ICICI Bank, Infosys, Reliance Industries, Satyam Computers, Tata Steel, Tata Motors and Wipro.
The big gainers from the auto sector were Amtek Auto, Apollo Tyres, Ashok Leyland, Cummins India, Exide Industries, M&M, MRF, Punjab Tractors, Sundram Fasteners and TVS Motor Company.
Banking stocks that saw a rise in price included Allahabad Bank, Andhra Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Corporation Bank, Dena Bank, IDBI, Indian Overseas Bank, Oriental Bank, Punjab National Bank, Syndicate Bank, Uco Bank, Union Bank and Vijaya Bank.
The public sector undertaking stocks that posted gains on Monday included Balmer and Lawrie, Engineers India, National Fertiliser Corporation and Steel Authority of India.