Indian shares flat as L&T, Reliance offset losses in banks

BENGALURU, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Indian shares erased early losses to trade little changed on Monday as gains in heavyweights Larsen & Toubro and Reliance Industries offset weakness in banks and state-run firms.

The NSE Nifty 50 index was up 0.06% at 13,768.35 by 0455 GMT, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.12% to 47,010.37.

Both the indexes had earlier fallen as much as 0.6%.

India’s equity benchmarks have surged more than 80% from lows hit in March, powered by record inflows from foreign institutional investors (FIIs), progress on COVID-19 vaccines globally and signs of a domestic economic recovery.

“Our markets are completely in the control of FIIs, we are nearing year end and FIIs will also be in vacation mode and there could be some tapering of flows,” said Rusmik Oza, head of fundamental research at Kotak Securities in Mumbai.

“Even if markets edge lower, the pull-back is going to be strong as FIIs could come back with a vengeance.”

Leading the gains on Monday, Larsen & Toubro rose over 4% to its highest since February.

One of L&T’s units emerged as the lowest bidder for a refinery project for Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd, media reports said on Friday.

Reliance Industries Ltd, the country’s most valuable company, rose as much as 1.5% after it announced on Friday with BP Plc the start of production from the R Cluster - an ultra-deepwater gas field off the east coast of India.

However, the Nifty PSU Bank index fell as much as 2.07%, with Canara Bank Ltd declining 5.4%.

The Nifty Public Sector Enterprise, which tracks state-run firms, fell 1.55%.

Reuters reported that India plans to set tough financial targets for state-run firms to try to improve their valuations.

Broader Asian shares faltered as fresh lockdowns in the UK to curb the spread of a new coronavirus strain dampened sentiment.

Reporting by Chandini Monnappa in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni