Market observers said negative global cues and heavy selling pressure in healthcare, consumer durables and capital goods stocks pulled the equity indices lower.
However, some late-hour buying helped the key indices to recover from their day’s lows and the Nifty50 reclaimed the psychologically important 11,000-level.
The wider Nifty50 of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) fell by 21.95 points or 0.20 per cent to close at 11,027.70 points.
However, the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE closed below the 36,000-mark at 35,965.02 points — down 68.71 points or 0.19 per cent from its previous close.
The BSE market breadth was bearish as 1,776 stocks declined against 1,036 advances.
“Markets corrected on Wednesday ahead of the Union Budget 2018-19 on Thursday, February 1. Investors and traders were turning cautious ahead of the event,” Deepak Jasani, Head, Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.
“Some late hour recovery was seen in the indices post 2.30 p.m. Broad market indices like the BSE mid-cap and small-cap indices lost more, thereby underperforming the main indices,” said Jasani.
In the broader markets, the S&P BSE mid-cap index closed lower by 1.29 per cent and the small-cap index by 0.83 per cent.
Provisional data with the exchanges showed that both foreign institutional investors turned net sellers and sold scrips worth Rs 136.63 crore.
However, domestic institutional investors invested in stocks worth Rs 1,294.66 crore.
The Indian rupee strengthened by two paise to close at 63.58 against the US dollar from its previous close at 63.60.
Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services, said: “Selling extended in the market as investors were awaiting the big budget day while the expectation for this budget is muted compared to what was anticipated over the last 2-years. The main requirement is to have a good balance between fiscal discipline and growth reforms.”
“Rural economy will be the key in the budget but infrastructure development and reforms are also likely to be highlighted. Some tinkering can be expected on corporate and individual taxation. If these basic points are addressed in the budget, we feel that market will maintain it’s luminous in the short to long-term,” Nair added.
Sectorwise, the S&P BSE healthcare index declined by 240.39 points, followed by capital index by 231.32 points and consumer durables index by 221.90 points.
On the other hand, the S&P BSE banking index edged higher by 124.79 points, oil and gas index by 77.60 points and energy index by 25.97 points.
Major Sensex gainers on Wednesday were: Kotak Bank, up 1.85 per cent at Rs 1,109.75; Reliance Industries, up 1.25 per cent at Rs 961.15; HDFC, up 1.16 per cent at Rs 1,955.70; IndusInd Bank, up 1 per cent at Rs 1,754.15; and Tata Motors, up 0.77 per cent at Rs 399.25.
Major Sensex losers were: Dr Reddy’s Lab, down 3.75 per cent at Rs 2,225.25; Tata Steel, down 3.49 per cent at Rs 705.05; Coal India, down 2.32 per cent at Rs 298.60; Hindustan Unilever, down 2.13 per cent at Rs 1,369.65; and Sun Pharma, down 2.02 per cent at Rs 579.35.