Indian shares end at record high on vaccine progress

BENGALURU, Dec 9 (Reuters) – Indian shares jumped to a record high on Wednesday, led by gains in heavyweights Reliance Industries and HDFC Bank, as hopes for vaccine approvals in the second worst coronavirus-hit nation boosted investor sentiment.

The NSE Nifty 50 index ended 1.02% higher at 13,529.1, its seventh consecutive session of gains, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex was up 1.09% at 46,103.5. Both have hit record highs in 14 of the last 21 sessions and are up more than 4% so far in December.

India’s federal health secretary said on Tuesday the country may approve some coronavirus vaccines over the next few weeks and an estimated 300 million people would be inoculated in the first tranche.

India has the world’s second-highest virus caseload behind the United States, but daily cases have stayed below the 50,000-mark since Nov. 8, despite a busy festival season that saw crowded markets and streets.

Global equities were also rallying on U.S. stimulus hopes and as Johnson & Johnson made further progress with COVID-19 vaccine trials.

“Vaccination news, decreasing cases in India and continuous liquidity have been the key factors,” said Naveen Kulkarni, Chief Investment Officer, Axis Securities, adding that strong economic revival would continue to aid markets.

“Important factors from here will be the revival of growth in the BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance) sector and traction in discretionary consumption.”

India’s largest company by market value Reliance Industries Ltd rose 1.7% to its highest since mid-November, while private-sector lender HDFC Bank Ltd gained 2.3%.

Prestige Estates Ltd closed 2% higher after India’s competition regulator approved here the acquisition of some of its assets by affiliates of Blackstone Group.

Heritage Foods surged 17.8% after the food processing firm disposed its stake in Future Retail. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)

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