March 23, 2020 / 4:25 AM / 11 days ago

Indian shares crash as pandemic worries escalate; rupee hits record low

* Nifty 50, Sensex crash over 9% each

* Rupee hits fresh record low at 76.05

By Chandini Monnappa

BENGALURU, March 23 (Reuters) - Indian stocks plunged over 9% on Monday, as the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic sent major states including the country’s capital into a lockdown amid increasing fears that outbreak could bring world economies to a grinding halt.

The NSE Nifty 50 index slipped 9.17% to 7,937.75 by 0408 GMT, while the S&P BSE Sensex was 9.42% lower at 27,093.24.

Over the weekend in India, the virus drove several companies to shut operations and the government sent states into lockdowns, bringing normal life to a grinding halt.

As of Sunday, India had registered 341 cases of coronavirus, with seven deaths.

“Panic has gone up domestically because of the lockdown situation,” said Vinod Nair, head of research at Geojit Financial Services.

“There is fear that the situation will not be brought under control soon.”

The rupee hit a fresh record low of 76.05 against the dollar, as a flight into cash and worries about tightening liquidity boosted demand for the world’s reserve currency.

Meanwhile, global markets crumbled, with MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan sliding nearly 4% as the global death toll climbed to over 14,000, further battering economic activity, and raising fears of a global recession.

After market hours on Friday, the Securities and Exchange Board of India halved position limits for certain stock futures, restricted short-selling of index derivatives and raised margin rates for some shares to curb “abnormally high” volatility amid the pandemic.

In domestic trading, the Nifty PSU Bank Index plunged 8%, while the Nifty bank index crashed nearly 10%.

The Nifty Auto Index slid 9% after several carmakers over the weekend suspended production due to the virus. (Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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