Mumbai: Another "Manic Monday" saw a key Indian equity index log its steepest ever closing fall in point-terms, spooked by a crash in Chinese bourses, unmindful of the assertions by policymakers that the turbulence was transient and the country's economy remained strong.
In this turmoil, the Indian rupee also fell to its lowest in two years at 66.74 to a dollar.
The sensitive index (Sensex) of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) lost as much as 1,624.51 points, or 5.94 percent -- which was the steepest in terms of points, surpassing the previous highest closing loss of 1,408.35 points on Jan 21, 2008.
In terms of percentage, the loss of nearly 6 percent on Monday was around a half of the steepest fall of 11.13 percent in the Sensex, which was logged on May 17, 2004, data available with the Mumbai bourse showed. In fact, all these were Mondays.
The wider, 50-scrip Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) followed a similar trend to close 491 points, or 5.92 percent, down at 7,809 points. In both bourses as much as Rs.7 lakh crore ($100 billion) was wiped out in terms of marketcap.
At BSE, out of 2,835 companies that traded on Monday, 2,477 of them declined. Just 303 managed to stay afloat. In terms of Sensex, all the 30 shares that go into the bellwether's basket ended in the red.
So massive was the crash that top policymakers, led by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan sought to talk the market up, by saying the the core fundamentals of the Indian economy were strong and the turmoil will tide over.
"Factors responsible for the markets fall are entirely external. There isn't a single domestic factor," said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at a conference here. "The turbulence is transient and temporary in nature. Markets will settle down once the turbulence is over."
Rajan spoke a similar language and also tried to calm the currency market vis-a-vis the rupee.
"I'll say that relative to other countries India is in a good position with strengthening growth, a low current account deficit and narrowing fiscal deficit, moderating inflation, low short-term foreign currency liabilities and sizeable exchange reserves," he said.
Analysts said weak global cues emanating from a continuous slide in the Chinese markets, along with concerns over the stalled domestic economic reforms programme were the main reasons for Monday's mayhem.
"International investors are pulling-back funds from emerging markets especially China. There is a slowdown there. The clear and present danger now is the slowdown impacting the US and European based companies," Anand James, co-head, technical research, Geojit BNP Paribas, told IANS.
A look at the sector-wise indices showed how widespread the losses were in the Indian markets. All the 12 sub-indices of the BSE closed deep in the red. Banking, auto, healthcare, capital goods particularly came in for hammering.
The losers on Monday were led by Amtek Auto, down 25.19 percent at Rs.48, followed by Wockhardt, down 21.26 percent at Rs.1,301.75, Vakrangee, down 20 percent at Rs.100, BF Utilities, down 19.44 percent at Rs.476.80 and HDIL, down 18.99 percent at Rs.58.65.
Major Sensex losers were: Vedanta, down 15.30 percent at Rs.80.25, Tata Steel, down 13.11 percent at Rs.206.15, Gail India, down 12.78 percent at Rs.271.90, ONGC, down 11.17 percent at Rs.227.35, and Bajaj Auto, down 9.09 percent at Rs.2,188.45.
Elsewhere around the globe, Chinese stocks crashed pulling down the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index 8.45 percent to close at 3,211.2 points. The Shenzhen Component Index also shed 7.27 percent to end at 10,983.42 points.
The Hong Kong stocks also dived for the 7th consecutive trading session on Monday. The benchmark Hang Seng Index dropped 1,158.05 points, or 5.17 percent, to close at 21,251.57 points. It traded between 21,136.48 and 21,679.45.
The massive fall in the Chinese stock market comes from the disappointment that Beijing did not announce expected policy support over the weekend after the country's main market indexes shed 11 percent last week, brokerage Sharekhan said.
Going ahead, all eyes were onthe opening bell of Tuesday. They were worried if history would repeat itself. For on Jan 22, 2008 -- a day after "Manic Monday" -- the Sensex at one point had shed 2,273 points.
It was only after the finance ministry's intervention that the losses were pruned to 875 points.
(Rohit Vaid can be reached at email@example.com)