Indian shares were flat on Monday as prospects of an early roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines were countered by fears in India over the impact of further lockdowns, although Reliance Industries rose after winning regulatory approval for a $3.4 billion deal.
A top US health official said on Sunday the first coronavirus vaccines could be given to healthcare workers and others recommended by mid-December, boosting Asian stock markets on Monday.
In India, the Nifty was up 0.04% at 12,864.10 by 0510 GMT. The Sensex eased 0.05% to 43,860.60.
Reliance Industries, India’s most valuable public company, advanced about 2% after the country’s competition watchdog approved its deal to buy Future Group’s retail assets.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra state, home to India’s financial capital of Mumbai, could take a decision on a fresh lockdown within 8-10 days, the state’s deputy chief minister reportedly said, citing a possible risk from large social gatherings during the just concluded festive season.
“If there’s a lockdown, even in a small way, it cannot be a positive. India cannot afford more restrictions,” said A.K. Prabhakar, head of research at IDBI Capital in Mumbai.
India, the world’s second worst-hit nation by Covid-19, is likely to see its deepest economic contraction on record this fiscal year as businesses and incomes are hit by the pandemic.
On Monday, shares in several financial firms rose after a central bank committee recommended changes that could transform the country’s banking landscape by paving the way for large industrial conglomerates to set up banks.
IndusInd Bank rose 4% and was the top gainer on the Nifty 50. IDFC First Bank jumped 7%.
Small finance banks also advanced, with Equitas surging 12%, while Ujjivan added 20%.