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Sensex, Nifty end higher, Reliance at fresh record close

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian shares closed higher on Friday, boosted by a sharp rise in Reliance shares after the oil-to-telecoms conglomerate said it was net-debt free, helping investors briefly shift focus from rising coronavirus infections and border tensions with China.

A bird flies past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

The NSE Nifty 50 index closed up 1.51% at 10,244.40 and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex ended 1.53% higher at 34,731.73. For the week, the Nifty finished 2.72% higher and the Sensex closed up 2.81%.

Shares of Reliance Industries Ltd settled 6.25% higher, a record high following the company’s announcement of being net-debt free after raising over 1.69 trillion rupees ($22.15 billion) over the last few weeks through stake sales in its digital arm and a rights issue.

However, widespread concerns about India’s economic growth remain, which is already languishing at multi-year lows and faces further challenges from rising COVID-19 cases at home and abroad.

On Friday, coronavirus infections in India spiked to over 380,500 and deaths were well past 12,500.

“In case, hopes of a V-shaped recovery in earnings growth in the second half of fiscal year 2020-21 do not materialise, the market can face a steep correction,” said Ajay Bodke, chief executive officer, PMS at Prabhudas Lilladher in Mumbai.

“Caution is being thrown to the winds with the market ignoring heightened geopolitical risks and being wildly optimistic about a sharp bounce back,” Bodke added.

Tensions between India and China have grown following deadly clashes between the two sides over a contested border.

Analysts said access to greater liquidity globally has propelled buying from foreign institutional investors in Indian markets.

Financial stocks rallied, with the Nifty PSU Bank index tracking state-owned lenders closing 2.23% higher, while the Nifty Private Bank index settled up 1.45%.

The Nifty realty index, which tracks real estate firms, jumped 6.4% and the Nifty Energy index closed up nearly 3.65%, the highest close since Feb. 25.

Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta