Mumbai: The Indian equity markets plunged on Monday, as investors were spooked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's hint of raising taxes on income generated via stock market trade.
According to market observers, Prime Minister's recent comments on a likely rise in tax rates on gains made from stock markets eroded investors' confidence, though Finance Minister Arun Jaitley subsequently tried to soothe concerns.
Besides, continuous outflow of foreign funds and selling pressure dragged the key domestic indices lower.
However, short covering in the second half of the session helped the benchmark indices to pare some of their initial losses. Despite this, the intense selling pressure weighed down the barometer 30-scrip Sensitive Index (Sensex) of the BSE, to end below its psychologically important mark of 26,000 points.
The wider 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) dropped by 77.50 points or 0.97 per cent to 7,908.25 points.
The Sensex of the BSE, which opened at 25,992.41 points, closed at 25,807.10 points, down 233.60 points or 0.90 per cent from the previous day's close at 26,040.70 points.
The Sensex touched a high of 26,008.57 points and a low of 25,753.74 points during intra-day trade.
The BSE market breadth was tilted in favour of the bears -- with 2,062 declines against 547 advances.
On Friday, both the Sensex and the Nifty had closed on a flat-to-positive note, as foreign fund outflows and broadly negative global indices subdued investors' sentiments.
The barometer index on December 23 inched up by 61.10 points or 0.24 per cent to 26,040.70 points, while the NSE Nifty gained only 6.65 points or 0.08 per cent to 7,985.75 points.
"Markets began the week on a negative note as the Nifty ended sharply lower (at its lowest since May 2016) and broke the 7,942 (points) support in the process," Deepak Jasani, Head - Retail Research, HDFC Securities, told IANS.
"This was despite positive gains seen in some of the major Asian indices that were open today."
Dhruv Desai, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tradebulls, the CNX Nifty witnessed short covering in second half of the session but failed to sustain gains at higher levels.
"Almost all sector-based stocks witnessed selling pressure at higher levels and traded with bearish sentiments," Desai elaborated.
Sector-wise, all 19 sub-indices closed the day's trade in the red.
The Siamp;P BSE healthcare index receded by 376.09 points, the automobile index declined by 290.40 points, metal index edged lower by 284.99 points, banking index dived by 279.90 points and the oil and gas index was down by 184.67 points.
"Even the sideways USD/INR futures prices did not support the markets at lower levels," Desai added.
The Indian rupee strengthened by eight paise to 67.74 against a US dollar from its previous close of 67.82 to a greenback.
"Tracking weak US dollar overseas, Indian rupee traded higher against the American currency, but constant capital outflows from domestic equities restricted rupee gains," SMC Global Securities said in a commentary to IANS.
In terms of investments, provisional data with exchanges showed that the FIIs (Foreign Institutional Investors) sold stocks worth Rs 1,095.04 crore, while the domestic institutional investors (DIIs) purchased scrip worth Rs 1,065.39 crore.
Major Sensex gainers on Monday were: Hindustan Unilever, up 1.25 per cent at Rs 800.85; Bharti Airtel, up 0.25 per cent at Rs 296.25; ITC, up 0.11 per cent at Rs 225.05; Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), up 0.08 per cent at Rs 2,292.10; and Larsen and Toubro (Liamp;T), up 0.05 per cent at Rs 1,337.60.
Major Sensex losers were: Cipla, down 4.94 per cent at Rs 553.95; Lupin, down 2.78 per cent at Rs 1,405.10; Tata Steel, down 2.64 per cent at Rs 380.45; State Bank of India (SBI), down 2.07 per cent at Rs 244.10; and ONGC, down 2.07 per cent at Rs 189.