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Indian Stocks Fall to Six-Week Low, Led by State Bank, ICIC
May, 28th 2008

India's benchmark equity index fell for a fourth day, as investors sold banks before equity derivative contracts expire on May 29, amid concern rising inflation will keep interest rates at a six-year high.

State Bank of India, the nation's largest by assets, fell to a nine-month low on concern borrowing costs will pare demand for loans. ICICI Bank Ltd., the second-largest, fell to its lowest since April 15. Housing Development Finance Corp., a mortgage lender, dropped to its lowest value since April 21.

``The market is under selling pressure because of the end of settlement on Thursday,'' said Rajesh Jain, chief executive officer at Pranav Securities Ltd. ``Banking shares have been hit in particular because of fears that rising inflation will prevent the central bank from cutting interest rates.''

The Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensitive Index, or Sensex, fell 72.91 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,275.59, nearly a six- week low, after rising as much as 1 percent. Sixteen stocks rose and 14 fell in the 30-share measure. The market settles options and futures contracts on the last Thursday of each month.

State Bank declined 67.95 rupees, or 4.4 percent, to 1,470, its lowest value since Aug. 28. ICICI dipped 6.8 rupees, or 0.8 percent, to 813.5. Housing Development Finance fell 47.15 rupees, or 1.8 percent, to 2,519.85.

India's wholesale price inflation, at 7.82 percent for the week ended May 10, held above the central bank's target for a third straight month, raising concerns that commercial lenders may be ordered to increase reserves for a third time this year. Inflation data was released on May 23.

Cigarette Sales

ITC Ltd. gained after Credit Suisse Group increased its share price estimate on the nation's largest cigarette maker, citing expectations of higher profitability.

Analysts Govindarajan Chellappa and Swapnil Nadkar increased their share-price estimate on ITC by 9.1 percent to 264 rupees in a note to clients today. They maintained their ``outperform'' rating on the stock.

ITC, based in Kolkata, posted its steepest percentage advance since May 12. ITC gained 3.6 rupees, or 1.8 percent, to 209.1, the second-largest percentage gainer on the index today.

Indian Oil Corp., the nation's largest state-run refiner, led rivals higher after the government said it was mulling a levy on income tax to help companies recover losses from selling gasoline at below cost.

Indian Oil rose 7.5 rupees, or 1.8 percent, to 421.55 while Hindustan gained 6.1 rupees, or 2.5 percent, to 246.60. Bharat Petroleum advanced 2.15, or 0.6 percent, to 349.90.

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