In a highly choppy trade, stock markets ended weak for the sixth straight session as the benchmark Sensex slipped 28 points on sell-off in blue-chips, including Infosys Technologies and RIL, amid overall nervous sentiment ahead of corporate results starting this week.
Investors remained wary of rising prices, which may lead to a further hike in interest rates, even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met senior ministers earlier in the day to find ways to tame food inflation which has gone beyond 18%.
The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) bellwether Sensex swung widely between the positive and the negative terrains throughout the session, and hit a four-month low of 19,003.60 intra-day.
Opening firm and gaining over 207 points, the 30-BSE index then fell more than 200 points. Eventually, it finished the day with a marginal dip of 27.78 points or 0.14% at 19,196.34.
A similar pattern was followed by the National Stock Exchange's (NSE) wide-based Nifty, which saw a decline of 8.75 points or 0.15% to close at 5,754.10.
Marketmen said that bulls continued to be under tremendous pressure amid outflows from FIIs, concerns over rising inflation, with a strong possibility of another rate hike and lack of perceptible progress in key reforms.
"All eyes will be on the IIP number tomorrow and Infosys' results on Thursday. Weekly food inflation data and December's inflation report will also have an impact on sentiment," IIFL Head of Research Amar Ambani said.
Interest-rate sensitive realty stocks were the worst hit, on worries that higher interest rates and property prices could hit demand - residential as well as commercial.
Jai Prakash Associates and DLF slumped by 2.62% and 0.89%, dragging the realty index by 70.33 points to settle at 2,500.61.
Realty was the biggest laggard among the 13 sectoral indices, followed by the IT index which plummeted by nearly 107 points. A plunge in the IT sector was led by a 1.98% dip in the bellwether Infosys and a fall of 2.58% TCS counter.
"IT stocks declined on profit taking ahead of sector Infosys' third quarter earnings, slated to be announced on January 13," Ambani said.
Significant fall of 1.62% in the country's most valued firm Reliance Industries was also a major dampener for the street.
Losses on the bourses were offset by the beaten down financial counters, which recovered a bit on bargain hunting.
Major support for the tumbling street came from the country's largest lender SBI, which advanced by 2.51%. Private sector lender ICICI Bank also witnessed a surge of 0.88%, while the rival HDFC Bank shed 0.39%. Select shares of auto and capital goods gained, including Bajaj Auto (up 3.42%) and BHEL (up 2.35%).
In all, 16 of the 30-Sensex components ended the day on a positive note, with the aluminium giant Hindalco, emerging as the best performer, up 3.46%.
Globally, Asian markets ended mixed with China's Shanghai surging 0.47% and Japan's Nikkei sliding 0.29%.
European markets, however, were trading firm in the afternoon session.