Indian shares edge higher; China tensions, virus cases cap gains

BENGALURU, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Indian shares were slightly higher on Wednesday, helped by a jump in heavyweight Reliance Industries, although gains were capped on signs of a protracted standoff with China and the country’s coronavirus tally crossing the 5-million mark.

Investors also awaited the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting, the first since Chairman Jerome Powell announced an increased tolerance for higher inflation.

The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index rose 0.23% to 11,548.60 and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex 0.25% to 39,143.24 by 0500 GMT.

Officials said on Tuesday India in recent months had transported tons of supplies to troops on the disputed Himalayan border with China. Both countries are negotiating to resolve the confrontation, but signs suggest they are digging in for the long haul ahead of winter.

“Investors are closely watching the China situation and will be very cautious if signs become more serious,” said Anita Gandhi, director at Arihant Capital Markets

Meanwhile, total cases of the novel coronavirus in India surged past 5 million on Wednesday, with a single-day jump of 90,123 infections, according to health ministry data.

Separately, government data on Tuesday showed India posted a trade deficit of $6.77 billion in goods in August, higher than the $4.83 billion deficit posted in July.

“Trade deficit data is slightly disappointing... investors are now waiting for some clear-cut signals so that the next wave of buying can emerge,” Gandhi added.

Conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd was the top boost to the Nifty, rising as much as 2.2% to a record high.

The Nifty Auto index rose 1.95%. Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd jumped as much as 5.9% and was among the top boosts to the Nifty 50.

The Nifty Bank Index fell 0.20%, with ICICI Bank Ltd and Axis Bank Ltd being among the top drags on the Nifty 50.

Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V