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Sensex, Nifty slump over 1.5% as government offers few hints of stimulus

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian stocks slid more than 1.5% on Thursday as comments from key policymakers failed to assure investors that the government was serious about taking steps to revive economic growth.

A man walks past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

A slowdown in Asia’s third-largest economy has dampened demand for everything from cars to underwear, with the crucial automobile manufacturing sector hit particularly hard, prompting calls from companies for a fiscal stimulus.

India’s chief economic adviser, Krishnamurthy Subramanian, said companies should not depend on the government for a stimulus and need to change their mindset.

Subramanian said it would be a “moral hazard” if the government were to use public money to cushion private losses, but added the government was serious about encouraging investment. He was speaking at an event in New Delhi on Thursday.

The central bank has already cut interest rates four times this year to boost credit to the private sector.

Speaking at the same event, the top bureaucrat in India’s power ministry, Subhash Chandra Garg, said gross domestic product growth in April-June would likely be around 5.5%-5.6%.

The estimate from Garg, formerly the finance secretary, was lower than the 5.8% rate at which the economy grew in January-March, which was the slowest in over four years.

“Hopes of a stimulus have been dashed after certain statements from government officials hint that such a stimulus cannot come from the government,” said Saurabh Jain, assistant vice-president of research at SMC Global Securities in New Delhi.

“The problem is that no one can gauge when this slowdown will witness a moderation.”

The broader NSE Nifty ended 1.62% lower at 10,741.35 after hitting a fresh six-month low, while the benchmark BSE Sensex closed down 1.59% at 36,472.93.

The top decliner on the BSE Sensex was private-sector lender Yes Bank Ltd, which fell 12%. The Nifty PSU bank index shed 3.66%, led by a 3.3% fall in State Bank of India.

Meanwhile, the rupee weakened 0.42%, hitting an eight-month low of 71.9750 against the dollar.

The Nifty information technology index was the lone gainer among the 14 Nifty sectoral indexes.

The Nifty real estate index ended more than 6% lower, with DLF Ltd falling 16.7% after a report said the Supreme Court had issued a notice to the real estate developer for allegedly suppressing material information from shareholders.

The NSE Nifty has slipped 9.5% since hitting an all-time high in June amid weak corporate earnings, poorly received budget proposals and the slowdown in the automotive industry.

“Market participants ... are looking for structural reforms,” said Anand James, chief market strategist at Geojit Financial Services. “Markets are pessimistic for the time being, and a V-shaped recovery is not expected.”

Reporting by Chandini Monappa and Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu