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The Serach for Direction Continues

Markets just ticked to go nowhere and likely to remain so. With bleak economic numbers, Budget 2002 will be a keenly awaited milestone by the professional optimists.

Net-net, the market only ticked with a 1.6 point gain on the Sensex after taking a bath mid-week. Nifty was listless too. Institutional support was amiss, mixed quarterly results and divestment euphoria were the highlights of the week.

The bear grip on the market has prevailed through January. The Sensex remained range bound at 3500 levels on a falling volume, which fell by almost 25 percent. On the other hand, NSE stock futures were gaining attention with an all-time high turnover of Rs 758.22 crore on Thursday.

On institutional front, both foreign and domestic players were net sellers during the week. This year in January, mutual funds' investment in equities of Rs 441.75 crore is almost half of the investments made in January last year (Rs 909.14 crore).

For the first three trading sessions, Indian stocks tumbled under aggressive selling by both FIIs and individual investors. Lower than expected earning of old economy majors like VSNL, BPCL, Reliance Petroleum and MRF dampened sentiments. This was despite surge in earnings of pivotals -- SBI, GAIL, Grasim and Castrol. But PSU and auto stocks were on the forefront.

Tech stocks led the resurgence on Thursday, drawing strength from Wall Street. However, PSU stocks stole the show by the weekend as divestment of VSNL and IBP gathered momentum. Now, Tata and Reliance are the only bidders left to acquire 25% stake in VSNL. Bidding for IBP will close next week.

Technology stocks gained too with the BSE IT index up 1.5 per. Interestingly, BSE FMCG index shed 0.7 per cent despite Britannia and Nirma's better third quarter results.

In economic news, the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) has downgraded India's growth forecast to 4 per cent from 5.2 per cent for the current fiscal. According to latest data released by the government, Indian exports have grown marginally by 0.64 percent in April-December 2001 as compared to the same period a year earlier.

In US, stocks rallied after the Fed kept interest rates and its pro-growth bias steady. However, tech-heavy NASDAQ ended the week down 1.4 per cent and the broader Dow Jones gained 0.7 per cent during the week.

Despite a cheerful month-end, market remains fragile. The market has been unable to derive the trigger from the current earning season approaching a close. With bleak economic numbers, Budget 2002 will be a keenly awaited milestone by the professional optimists. Till then market is likely to be headed nowhere.