The benchmark Sensex on Thursday plunged 255 points to a four-month closing low of 20,193.35 on poor earnings of Cipla and Coal India, weak global cues and continued worries over the domestic economy.
Banking, capital goods, refinery, metal and pharma sectoral indices suffered the most among the eleven that dropped in the BSE while realty index bucked the trend. Overall, 26 out of 30 Sensex-based scrips fell. Drop in HDFC, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, ITC, L&T, RIL, Cipla, ONGC, HUL and SBI together added over 200 points fall to the bluechip index, which had gained over 114 points in past two days.
The BSE gauge opened higher but quickly fell back on weak Asian cues. It remained in the negative terrain throughout to settle lower by 1.25 per cent or 255.14 points - its biggest fall since February 3. Thursday's closing level of 20,193.35 is the lowest since October 8, 2013 (19,983.61).
"Weak quarterly results of certain large caps, poor global cues and uncertainty over a clear direction to the markets may have led to sharp weakness," said Milan Bavishi, Head Research, Inventure Growth & Securities.
Worries over the domestic economy also led to selling after data yesterday showed industrial output contracted 0.6 per cent in December. Retail inflation easing to 2-year low of 8.79 per cent in January, did not help frayed nerves.
The wide-based CNX Nifty of the NSE also tumbled 82.90 points, or 1.36 per cent to end at 6,001.10 -- the lowest closing level since November 22, 2013 (5,995.45). Thursday's drop was the sharpest since 87.70-point dip on February 3, 2014.
Cipla shares saw a nearly 8 per cent drop after third quarter earnings lagged estimates. PSU major Coal India Ltd (CIL) fell 3.4 per cent on disappointing earnings. SBI ended 2.16 per cent down ahead of Q3'FY14 results tomorrow.
Global stocks fell, led by a drop in Tokyo, ahead of US data releases. European markets too were trading lower in early trades after some weak earnings.
Key Asian benchmark indices in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan fell in 0.46-1.79 per cent range. The index from Singapore, however, rose 0.15 per cent.
In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.19 per cent, France's CAC down 0.29 per cent and the UK's FTSE down 0.57 per cent.
Jignesh Chaudhary, Head of Research, Veracity Broking Services said: "Indian equity markets opened on a positive note. However, they lost steam and then became weak in the latter part of the day, due to the absence of FII community." Pharmaceuticals giant, Cipla, was the top loser from the Sensex pack with a fall of 7.70 per cent.
Other losers from the Sensex were BHEL 3.50 per cent, Coal India 3.39 per cent, ONGC 3.29 per cent, Hindalco Industries 3.19 per cent, Tata Power 2.73 per cent, HDFC 2.43 per cent, L&T 2.25 per cent, SBI 2.16 per cent and Dr Reddy's Lab 2.04 per cent.
HUL 2.02 per cent, HDFC bank 1.92 per cent, Tata Steel 1.87 per cent, ICICI Bank 1.81 per cent, Bharti Airtel 1.80 per cent, Axis Bank 1.61 per cent, Bajaj Auto 1.59 per cent, Gail India 1.57 per cent, RIL 1.22 per cent, Wipro 1.16 per cent and ITC 1.11 per cent were other losers.
However, the four Sensex gainers were led by TCS that rose 1.42 per cent and M&M which gained 1.16 per cent.
Among the S&P BSE secotoral indices, Bankex dropped by 2.11 per cent, Capital Goods 2.06 per cent, Oil&Gas 1.84 per cent, Metal 1.81 per cent, Power 1.68 per cent, Healthcare 1.63 per cent and FMCG 0.93 per cent. The Realty index inched up by 0.39 per cent.
Market breadth remained negative as 1,661 stocks ended in the red while 921 stocks finished in the green. The total turnover dropped to Rs 1,667.49 crore from Rs 1,880.27 crore yesterday.
Meanwhile, Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) bought shares Rs 211.99 crore (net) yesterday as per the provisional data issued by the stock exchanges.