Indian shares jump on vaccine optimism; Bharti Airtel surgesIndian shares jump on vaccine optimism; Bharti Airtel surges
A bird flies past the Bombay Stock Exchange building in Mumbai

By Sachin Ravikumar

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Indian shares followed world markets higher on Tuesday, after three straight sessions of declines, spurred by gains in Bharti Airtel and positive data from an early trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The NSE Nifty 50 index <.NSEI> has slid 9% in May so far, with sharp falls in the last three sessions, as India’s economic relief measures disappointed markets and domestic COVID-19 infections rose steadily.

On Tuesday, the blue-chip Nifty 50 was up 2.09% at 9,007.20 by 0500 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex <.BSESN> was 2.12% higher at 30,665.07.

Other Asian shares also climbed and oil extended gains after very early data showed U.S.-based Moderna Inc’s <MRNA.O> experimental COVID-19 vaccine produced protective antibodies in a small group of healthy volunteers.

Shares in Bharti Airtel Ltd <BRTI.NS> jumped 9% and hit a record high as the telecoms firm reported a 15% rise in revenue. The stock was the biggest boost to the Nifty 50.

Banking stocks were the next biggest boost to the Nifty 50, following a bruising Monday that saw the sector <.NSEBANK> record its worst day in two weeks. HDFC Bank <HDBK.NS> and mortgage lender HDFC <HDFC.NS> gained over 2% each.

“There are apprehensions in terms of asset quality in the banking sector. These are medium- to long-term concerns,” said Mayuresh Joshi, head of equity research at William O’Neil India in Mumbai.

“If such short-term moves happen, there is a high probability that shorts are getting covered,” he said, of the banking stocks’ rise on Tuesday.

Betting on a security’s price to fall, short sellers borrow a stock with a view to buy it back later at a lower price to cover the bet and make a profit.

The banking index is down 44% this year and is among the worst performers in 2020, with the industry staring at more defaults by businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, raising concerns of a fresh bout of bad loans.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India surged past 100,000 on Tuesday, and the death toll stood at 3,163.

India is currently under a two-month lockdown that has hit the incomes of millions of workers and left businesses without revenues. Although some lockdown curbs have been eased, air travel and most public gatherings remain restricted.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Uttaresh.V)