The BSE benchmark Sensex today dropped by 148 points, led by metal major Sterlite Industries, to end below the 20,000 level for the first time in four days on profit booking and weak European cues.
Extending losses for the second straight session, the 30- share barometer of the Bombay Stock Exchange closed lower by 148.52 points, or 0.74 per cent, at 19,956.34, with most of the losses coming in from Sterlite, ITC, ONGC, ICICI Bank and Bharti Airtel.
The National Stock Exchange's 50-share Nifty Index too slipped below the 6,000 mark and ended 0.63 per cent down at 5,991.30.
After starting with smart gains, the benchmark indices were unable to hold on to their gains due to profit booking witnessed at higher levels. The BSE Sensex fluctuated between a high of 20,234.05 and a low of 19,923.11.
Stocks may remain volatile this week as traders roll over positions from the near-month September series to October series ahead of the expiry of September derivatives contracts tomorrow, brokers said.
"Market players preferred to stay cautious and book profits ahead of the F&O expiry. In addition, unfavourable breadth was another cause for worry," IIFL VP (Research) Amar Ambani said.
Anil Agarwal-run Vedanta Group firm Sterlite Industries was the worst performer in the Sensex pack and sank 8.58 per cent, following an order by the Madras High Court for closing the company's copper smelter plant in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu on environmental grounds.
Other metal stocks too were under pressure, with Hindalco dropping 2.63 per cent and Jindal Steel by 0.51 per cent. "The event after VAL debacle (Orissa mining issue) has once again intensified the uncertainty to the stock," brokerage house Prabhudas Lilladher said in a note.
Brisk selling was witnessed in FMCG and consumer durables stocks also. Bharti Airtel fell by 2.8 per cent, ITC by 2.75 per cent, ONGC by 2.6 per cent, Reliance Infra by 2.49 per cent and Maruti Suzuki by 2.26 per cent.
Reliance Industries, which has the maximum weight in the Sensex, ended with a marginal gain of 0.08 per cent at Rs 999. Barring, IT, auto and pharma, all the sectoral indices on the BSE ended in the red.
In the Sensex pack, 23 stocks ended with loss, while 7 scrips managed to close in the green.