Indian shares inch lower as rising virus cases weigh; Reliance top drag

BENGALURU, March 17 (Reuters) - Indian shares edged lower on Wednesday as rising domestic COVID-19 cases weighed on sentiment, while investors globally awaited the outcome of a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting.

By 0549 GMT, the blue chip NSE Nifty 50 index shed 0.18% to 14,884, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex was down 0.08% at 50,324.79.

India is dealing with a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, with daily COVID-19 infections jumping by 28,903 on Wednesday, the highest increase since Dec. 13.

Expanded lockdowns in certain states due to rising cases is a concern for the market, said Rahul Sharma, market strategist and head of research at Equity99 in Mumbai.

A rise in bond yields has also limited gains for Nifty and Sensex this month to about 3%, compared to a 6.6% jump in February.

“The RBI may have to do a fine balancing act to keep the bond yields at lower levels while managing the government’s borrowing program,” Sharma added.

The Nifty energy index was the top loser, shedding 1.57% as heavyweight Reliance Industries Ltd fell 1.2%.

The high-flying Nifty IT index was the only major sector trading in the black, rising 0.35%.

SBI Cards and Payment Services Ltd fell as much as 4.4%, after the Mint newspaper reported that U.S. private equity firm Carlyle Group Inc will sell a stake worth up to 37.30 billion rupees ($514.18 million) in the Indian credit card distributor.

Investment company Aditya Birla Capital Ltd gained as much as 5.1% after its board gave an in-principle approval to explore an initial public offering for its investment management joint venture with Canada’s Sun Life Financial. ($1 = 72.5425 Indian rupees) (Reporting by Anuron Kumar Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)