Falling for the second day, the BSE benchmark Sensex today closed at its weakest level since December 24 on subdued buying by funds ahead of Union Budget.
The S&P BSE Sensex ended 8.35 points, or 0.04 per cent, lower at 19,317.01. It moved between 19,401.75 and 19,289.83 during the session. The index had lost 317 points yesterday.
On December 24, 2012 the index had closed of 19,255.09.
While Bharti led gainers with a jump of 4.6 per cent on its USD 1 billion bond sale plan, the 30-share Sensex was dragged down by over 2 per cent losses each in HUL, Maruti Suzuki and Coal India.
ITC ended 1.5 per cent lower on fears of excise duty hike and HDFC closed nearly 2 per cent lower on reports of Goldman Sachs downgrading the stock to 'sell' rating, dealers said.
RIL closed 0.7 per cent up amid construction beginning on the USD 450 million butyl rubber plant the company is building along with its partner Russia's Sibuar at Jamnagar.
Infosys and ICICI Bank gained 1 per cent each on value buying activity after yesterday's losses, traders said.
Overall, realty, IT, healthcare and oil & gas stocks saw purchases while FMCG, auto and metal scrips witnessed selling.
Similarly, the broad-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty fell by 1.95 points, or 0.03 per cent, to 5,850.30. It moved between 5,873.80 and 5,835.80 during the session.
Brokers said market participants were cautious ahead of Union Budget this month-end and refrained from increasing their positions amid expiry of derivatives next Thursday.
Narrowly mixed Asian closing also weighed on the domestic market sentiment while firm European opening provided some support.
For the week, Sensex closed 1 per cent down.
Chinese shares ended down by 0.51 per cent, amid concerns that strength in the Chinese property market and other factors may lead Beijing to tighten policy.
Other key benchmark indices in Hong Kong and Taiwan settled with losses while those from Japan, Singapore and South Korea ended with gains.
However, European markets resumed higher as investors moved back into risk assets on the back of yesterday's heavy sell-off. The CAC was up by 1.10 per cent, the DAX by 0.48 per cent and the FTSE by 0.67 per cent.
Turning to the local market, 15 out of the Sensex scrips declined while 14 gained. Tata Power ruled steady.
Major losers from Sensex pack were HUL that dropped by 2.60 per cent, followed by Coal India (2.31 pc), Maruti Suzuki (2.09 pc),