A person tracking stock movement on the Bloomberg terminal in Mumbai. (Photographer: Aniruddh Saligrama/BloombergQuint)

India Stocks Fall as Deficit, Fraud Complaint Weigh on Sentiment

(Bloomberg) -- India’s benchmark equity index declined as a widening trade deficit and the overhang of a fraud complaint by Punjab National Bank weighed on investor sentiment.

The S&P BSE Sensex fell 0.8 percent to 34,010.76 in Mumbai, erasing a gain of as much as 0.6 percent. ICICI Bank Ltd. contributed the most to the decline, falling 2.3 percent. State Bank of India Ltd. was the worst performer, losing 2.6 percent. Most Asian markets are shut for Lunar New Year holidays.

“Imports rising faster than exports and concern around the alleged fraud at Punjab National Bank have overcome optimism that was driven by global cues,” said Anita Gandhi, director at Arihant Capital Markets Ltd. “There’s a lack of confidence and everyone is groping in the dark to understand the tune of money lost and how it will be recovered.”

India’s trade gap widened the most in four years in January as imports surged and export growth slipped, a report that came after yesterday’s market close showed. Separately, Punjab National Bank said earlier this week it had detected a fraud in its Mumbai branch.

The bank dropped 2.1 percent, extending its loss since Wednesday to 22 percent. India’s second-largest state-run lender has filed complaints with India’s Central Bureau of Investigation against parties including Gitanjali Group. Gitanjali Gems Ltd. sank 20 percent for a second consecutive session. A company spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday.

All but one of 19 sub-indexes compiled by BSE Ltd. declined, led by a gauge of auto makers and metal companies.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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