Indian shares see worst week since mid-March as volatility, foreign selling weighs

A broker reacts while trading at his computer terminal at a stock brokerage firm in Mumbai

By Bharath Rajeswaran and Hritam Mukherjee

BENGALURU (Reuters) -Indian shares ended higher on Friday, but logged their worst week in eight as concerns over the outcome of ongoing national elections and selling by foreign investors weighed on sentiment.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 was up 0.44% at 22,055.20 points, while the S&P BSE Sensex advanced 0.36% to 72,664.47, at close.

The benchmarks, however, logged their worst week since mid-March, dropping about 1.8% each and snapping two straight weeks of gains. The volatility index gained 386 percentage points during the week to touch 18.47, a 19-month high.

A lower voter turnout so far in India's general election has raised questions whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies can achieve the landslide victory predicted by opinion polls just a month ago. Counting of votes is scheduled for June 4.

Meanwhile, intense foreign selling - with investors offloading Indian shares worth $1.2 billion so far in May and paving course for the highest Foreign Portfolio Investment (FPI) sale since January - also pressured sentiment.

"Considering the higher risk-to-return ratio in India, expensive valuations and no indication of rate cuts happening immediately in the U.S., foreign investors have taken some money off the table," said Anita Gandhi, founder and head of institution at Arihant Capital Markets.

The recent strong performance of Chinese indices is also a trigger, prompting a shift of foreign inflows from the Indian to the Chinese market, said Santosh Pandey, president and head of Nuvama Professional Clients Group.

On Friday, nine of the 13 major sectors logged gains.

Drugmaker Cipla fell 1.42% after it missed fourth-quarter revenue estimates. However, pharma stocks ended 0.94% higher, cushioned by a 3.16% jump in Abbott India after its quarterly results.

Energy stocks ended 1.64% higher, led by a 4.48% post-results rise in Bharat Petroleum Corp as its margins outshone peers.

BPCL was also the top gainer on the Nifty 50 index, on the day.

(Reporting by Hritam Mukherjee and Bharath Rajeswaran in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Sonia Cheema)