The Sensex nosedived 1,688 points while the Nifty slumped below the 17,100-level on Friday as a new and potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant sent shockwaves through global markets. The variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong so far, has an unusual combination of mutations, as per initial reports. Countries like Britain and Japan have already imposed travel restrictions, raising the spectre of a fresh wave of lockdowns.
The 30-share BSE Sensex plummeted 1,687.94 points or 2.87% to close at 57,107.15 following an across-the-board selloff. Similarly, the NSE Nifty plunged 509.80 points or 2.91% to 17,026.45. Currency markets too were not spared, with the rupee sinking 37 paise versus the US dollar, in tandem with other emerging market currencies.
IndusInd Bank was the top loser in the Sensex pack, tanking 6.01%, followed by Maruti, Tata Steel, NTPC, Bajaj Finance, HDFC and Titan. Only four counters managed to close in the green -- Dr Reddy's, Nestle India, Asian Paints and TCS, spurting up to 3.32%. Investors lost a whopping Rs 7.35 lakh crore in Friday's session, with the market valuation of all BSE-listed companies standing at Rs 2,58,31,172.25 crore.
"Triggered by the new COVID variant in South Africa, domestic markets plummeted into negative territory following weak global peers. Existing inflation fears coupled with worries of an aggressive policy tightening by the US Fed Reserve also added to today's catastrophic session.
"On the domestic front, broad-based sell off was witnessed as investors dumped COVID-sensitive stocks while focus was shifted towards the pharma sector amid growing concerns over the new variant with higher mutations," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services.
During the week, the Sensex plunged 2,528.86 points or 4.24% and the Nifty shed 738.35 points or 4.15%.
"Markets saw sharp correction this week amid renewed concerns pertaining to COVID....The new variant of COVID is presenting challenges in the form of lockdowns and travel bans.
"Apart from COVID related concerns, inflation remains a worry for countries across the globe. FIIs have been net sellers this week. Equity markets in the near term will closely follow the impact of new COVID variant, inflation data, and central bank policies," said Shrikant Chouhan, Head of Equity Research (Retail), Kotak Securities.
Sectorally, BSE realty, metal, auto, basic materials and industrials indices fell as much as 6.42% on Friday, while healthcare ended with gains. Broader BSE midcap and smallcap indices tumbled up to 3.23%.
Elsewhere in Asia, bourses in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo sank as much as 2.67%.Stock exchanges in Europe too plunged up to 3.51% in mid-session deals. Meanwhile, international oil benchmark Brent crude tanked 5.62% to $77.60 per barrel.
Foreign institutional investors remained net sellers in the capital market on Thursday as they offloaded shares worth Rs 2,300.65 crore, as per exchange data.