Indian shares hit record highs on banks, FMCG boost; sugar stocks drop

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People walk past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Hemanshi Kamani/File Photo

BENGALURU, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Indian shares hit record highs on Wednesday, boosted by heavyweight HDFC Bank after the country's central bank relaxed restrictions on the private-sector lender for issuing new credit cards.

By 0457 GMT, the blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index (.NSEI) was 0.48% higher at 16,693.45, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex (.BSESN) was up 0.50% at 56,069.34.

HDFC Bank (HDBK.NS) jumped as much as 3.35% after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed the lender to issue new credit cards, months after it curbed some operations of the bank due to outages in its digital payment services. read more

However, the RBI's ban on the bank introducing new digital initiatives will continue.

The Nifty Bank index (.NSEBANK) climbed as much as 1.06%.

"Overall, banking has been kind of a laggard for quite a while, owing to sluggish loan growth and deteriorating asset quality sequentially," Siddhartha Khemka, head of retail research at Motilal Oswal Financial Services, Mumbai said.

While a lot more economic activity was allowed during the second wave, compared with the first, the fear of a another wave was impacting banking stocks, he also said.

The Nifty FMCG index (.NIFTYFMCG), meanwhile, added 0.48%. Khemka attributed the climb to data that showed the demand from the rural economy was outpacing that from urban areas.

Among other shares, sugar stocks fell after a Reuters report that the country is expected to withdraw sugar export subsidies from the new season beginning October.

Balrampur Chini (BACH.NS), Dwarikesh Sugars (DWAR.NS) and Shree Renuka Sugars (SRES.NS) were down between 2.6% and 5%.

Among broader markets, Asian shares held near year-to-date lows as overnight declines on Wall Street reinforced worries about the economic impact of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V

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