By Chris Thomas
BENGALURU (Reuters) – Indian stocks rose on Wednesday, lifted by an 8% surge in Reliance Industries Ltd after Facebook invested in its digital business, while expectations of a fiscal stimulus to combat the coronavirus pandemic bolstered sentiment.
The NSE Nifty 50 index climbed 1.13% to 9,082.9 by 0557 GMT, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex gained 1.43% to 31,071.01.
Shares of index heavyweight Reliance Industries rose to a near seven-week high after Facebook bought a 10% stake in the company’s digital business for $5.7 billion, a deal that will help the conglomerate cut its huge debt pile.
Financial stocks also provided support, with Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd and Axis Bank Ltd rising 1.8% and 3.2%, respectively.
Automakers Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hero MotoCorp Ltd gained 3.7% and 4.2% respectively, driving the Nifty Auto Index 2.5% higher.
India’s cabinet is meeting on Wednesday amid expectations that the government will roll out further measures to help fight the pandemic.
“There is some expectation that the government is going to announce a fiscal stimulus package today,” said Sumit Pokharna, vice-president, Kotak Securities.
Meanwhile, other Asian markets dropped to two-week lows after U.S. crude collapsed for the second day. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.8% while Japan’s Nikkei slumped 1.3%.
In Mumbai, energy giant Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd slid for a third straight day, falling as much as 12.3% to a more than three-week low.
“The current crude prices are an effect of the fear of demand destruction due to the virus, the main issue is the duration of this pandemic, its impact on economic growth and how macros of different economies are going to get hurt along the way,” said Deepak Jasani, head of research, HDFC Securities.
India is one of the world’s top importers of oil and usually tends to benefit from lower crude prices.
The country has extended the world’s largest lockdown into early May to contain the virus. The number of cases rose to nearly 20,000, including 640 deaths, as of Wednesday morning.
Miner Vedanta Ltd dropped 6.5% to a near two-week low.
Cement maker ACC Ltd climbed 3.7% after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit.
(Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)