Indian shares gain on SBI boost, decline in daily COVID-19 cases

BENGALURU, May 24 (Reuters) - Indian shares traded higher on Monday as heavyweight State Bank of India (SBI) continued to climb after its quarterly results on Friday, and the country’s daily COVID-19 cases stayed below the 300,000-mark for more than a week.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index was up 0.26% at 15,214.95 by 0521 GMT, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.36% at 50,720.68. Both the indexes gained more than 3% last week.

The Nifty PSU bank index advanced the most among sub-indexes, and was up 1.92%. SBI added as much as 4.5%.

“The bank’s (SBI) results have improved the sentiment for PSU banks,” said Anita Gandhi, director at Arihant Capital Markets, referring to a record quarterly profit reported by the country’s top lender.

Helping the mood was data from the health ministry that showed daily cases of the novel coronavirus in India stayed below the 300,000-mark for the eighth straight day on Monday, well below a record of more than 414,000 earlier this month.

Natco Pharma jumped 20% after the drug maker on Friday began phase III clinical trials of molnupiravir capsules for treating COVID-19.

IT services provider Birlasoft Ltd surged as much as 16.92% after it reported a 43% jump in quarterly profit.

In broader Asian markets, shares got off to a cautious start as investors awaited key U.S. inflation readings for guidance on monetary policy. (Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V)