By Bharath Rajeswaran and Akansha Victor
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian stocks settled slightly higher on Wednesday, helped by the unrelenting rally in bank stocks, though trading remained cautiously in a narrow range ahead of the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve's November policy meeting.
The benchmark S&P BSE Sensex closed up 0.15% to 61,510.58, while the NSE Nifty 50 index added 0.13% to 18,267.25, as of 1002 GMT.
The indexes had risen as much as 0.5% during the session. Still the 79.40 points trading range on the Nifty was the narrowest in the past one month
"Domestic indices continued to cautiously build gains as investors braced for the Fed meeting minutes," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research at Geojit Financial Services, adding that unpredictability among foreign investors were keeping the market at bay.
Foreign institutional investors turned net sellers over the last three consecutive sessions, selling 30.43 billion Indian rupees ($371.99 million) worth of equities since Monday.
The Fed's minutes, due at 1900 GMT, will be closely watched for fresh clues on the path of interest rate hikes, with most traders predicting a 50 basis point rate increase in December. [FEDWATCH/]
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs predicted earlier this week that the Nifty 50 index would reach 20,500 points by the end of 2023, adding that the economy's fundamentals are likely to stay resilient.
The Nifty Public Sector bank index climbed over 1%, rising for the seventh straight session and taking its surge for the year to about 58.8%, while the benchmark index has gained just 5.3%.
Punjab National Bank, Indian Bank, Canara Bank and Bank of Baroda hit multi-year highs on the day, as analysts forecast further improvement in asset quality.
India's top lender State Bank of India was among the top gainers on Nifty 50 index, rising over 1%.
Fertiliser stocks also jumped between 5% and 12% during the session.
($1 = 81.8040 Indian rupees)
(This story has been refiled to add dropped words "worth of equities" in paragraph 5)
(Reporting by Bharath Rajeswaran in Bengaluru; Editing by Dhanya Ann Thoppil and Eileen Soreng)