Photographs: Reuters Peter Noronha in Mumbai
The benchmark indices surrendered early gains to end in the red for the fourth straight session due to both domestic poll-related concerns and global geo-political worries.
Volatility came back to haunt the markets, with the BSE Sensex oscillating in a broad range of 400 points between a high of 22,680 and a low of 22,284 before ending at 22,417, down 48 points and the Nifty ended just short of the technically important level of 6670 at 6696, down 18 points.
The broader markets underperformed their heavyweight counterparts; the midcap index ended at 7323, weaker by 82 points and the smallcap index ended at 7489, down 124 points.
All the sectoral indices ended lower, with banking, capital goods and realty emerging as the biggest losers.
Call it profit-booking, premature end of 'Modi rally' ahead of the poll results or the simmering tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, the market rally seems to have lost steam in the past four trading sessions.
The trading day had begun on a cheerful note, with the markets snapping three successive days of losses on the back of gains in heavyweights such as RIL and ITC.
But the rebound was short-lived as investors have seemingly turned wary about the outcome of the elections result on May 16, despite the consensus favouring a Narendra Modi-led regime at the Centre.
Moreover, global investors are cautious ahead of the outcome of the Fed meeting as well as key US jobs data scheduled on Friday, and against a backdrop of continuing tensions in Ukraine.
A two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on monetary policy review concludes today, 30 April 2014.
European shares have lost ground in mid-day trades after sharp gains in the previous session as tensions in Ukraine continued to dog sentiment. Key benchmark indices in UK, France and Germany are down by 0.08% to 0.29%.
Asian shares were mixed, while the yen strengthened to session highs after the Bank of Japan's latest upbeat economic projections suggested no additional stimulus was on the near-term horizon.
And trading in US index futures indicates that the Dow could fall 19 points at opening bell on 30 April 2014.
On the political front, seven states and two union territories are going to polls in the 7th phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections on Wednesday.
The stock markets are closed tomorrow, May 1, 2014, on account of May Day.
Tata Power slipped by 3.5% at Rs 78 to lead the loser's pack on the BSE. Capital goods stocks, including BHEL (down 3.1% at Rs 180) and L&T (down 1.9% at Rs 1295) were among the major losers.
Bharti Airtel shed early gains to end lower by 2.2% at Rs 327 despite reporting 89% year-on-year jump in consolidated net profit at Rs 962 crore for the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2014 (Q4), backed by strong growth in voice and data revenues.
The country’s largest telecom operator by subscribers had posted a profit of Rs 509 crore in the corresponding quarter of previous fiscal.
The metal pack also witnessed profit-booking on reports the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), one of Beijing's top government think tanks, has revised its 2014 GDP growth forecast down to 7.4%, below the official 7.5% target, and said that growth could slow to as low as 7%.
Sesa Sterlite declined by 2.2% at Rs 185, Hindalco weakened by 1.8% at Rs 134 and Tata Steel shed 1.2% at Rs 400.
Index heavyweight RIL surrendered intra-day gains to end with modest loses of five points at Rs 935.
The shares of real estate companies succumbed to selling pressure, tumbling by up to 11% in late noon deals.
The BSE Realty index tanks 6%; DLF, Unitech, Anant Raj Industries, Housing Development and Infrastructure, Indiabulls Real Estate, DB Realty, Oberoi Realty and Prestige Estates are down 5-10% on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
The stocks to buck the trend included Hero Honda (up 2.2% at Rs 2183), ONGC (up 1.8% at Rs 325) and Dr Reddy's (up 1.4% at Rs 2705).
Banking shares, especially those of public sector undertaking (PSU) banks, were in the limelight after Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) reported strong set of numbers for the quarter ended March 2014.
IOB soared 17% to Rs 64.20 after reporting an over four-fold jump in net profit at Rs 268 crore for the fourth quarter ended March 31, 2014 (Q4), due to lower provisioning, higher income and cash recovery.
The state-owned bank had posted a profit of Rs 59 crore in the year-ago period.
Allahabad Bank, Central Bank of India, United Bank of India, Vijaya Bank, Punjab and Sindh Bank, Dena Bank and Bank of Maharashtra pared their early gain, but still managed to rally up to 5% each.
The market breadth turned weak at close.
Out of 2921 stocks traded on the BSE, there were 983 advancing stocks as against 1785 declines.