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Market Commentary 19 February 2024
Benchmarks to continue northward journey with positive start on Monday

Indian equity benchmarks closed higher for a fourth straight session and gained over half a percent on Friday amid strength in other global markets.  After an optimistic start, markets edged gradually higher as traders took encouragement with the government data showing that India's exports rose to a three-month high of 3.12 per cent to $36.92 billion in January despite global uncertainties including the Red Sea crisis, while the trade deficit narrowed to a nine-month low of $17.49 billion. After recording negative growth for two months in a row, imports grew by about 3 per cent to $54.41 billion in January. Domestic sentiments remained up-beat with Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal's statement that the negotiations for the proposed India-UK free trade agreement are at an advanced stage, and both sides are working to iron out differences on the remaining issues. A positive momentum continued over the Dalal Street in late afternoon deals, taking support from statutory body, Employees' State Insurance Corporation' (ESIC) latest provisional payroll data showing that 18.86 lakh new employees have been added in the month of December 2023. Around 23,347 new establishments have been registered and brought under the social security umbrella of the Employees' State Insurance Scheme in the month of December 2023, thus ensuring coverage to more workers. Some support also came with the commerce ministry stating that the next round of negotiations between India and South American nation Peru for a free trade agreement (FTA) is expected to start in April 2024. The proposed agreement is aimed at promoting bilateral trade and investments between the two countries. Traders took note of a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) stating that it has been a remarkable year for equities with the Nifty 50 rallying 22 percent in 2023 and the Sensex gaining 20 percent in the same period. Besides, it said India is currently a $3.7 trillion economy and is expected to grow to about $6 trillion by 2030 and $10 trillion by 2035. Finally, the BSE Sensex rose 376.26 points or 0.52% to 72,426.64 and the CNX Nifty was up by 129.95 points or 0.59% to 22,040.70.

The US markets ended higher on Friday amid concerns that Federal Reserve may not consider lowering interest rate anytime soon following a robust producer price inflation (PPI) data. Data from the Labor Department showed a bigger than expected increase in U.S. producer prices in the month of January. The report said the producer price index for final demand rose by 0.3 percent in January after edging down by 0.1 percent in December. Street had expected producer prices to inch up by 0.1 percent. Excluding prices for food, energy, and trade services, core producer prices climbed by 0.6 percent in January after rising by 0.2 percent in December. The report also showed the annual rate of producer price growth slowed to 0.9 percent in January from 1.0 percent in December. Economists had expected the pace of growth to decelerate to 0.6 percent. Also, the 10-year Treasury yield spiked above 4.3% following the hot PPI reading. At one point, the 2-year Treasury yield topped 4.7%, the highest since December. However, the negative sentiment was partly offset by a separate report from the University of Michigan showing an uptick in consumer sentiment in the month of February. The report said the consumer sentiment index inched up to 79.6 in February after spiking to 79.0 in January. With the increase, the consumer sentiment index reached its highest level since hitting 81.2 in July 2021. Improving consumer confidence can often lead to greater spending, which can support economic growth. Since the pandemic, however, consumer spending has been mostly healthy even when measures of sentiment were quite low.

Crude oil futures settled higher on Friday, lifting the WTI Crude futures to a 11-week high, due to concerns about potential supply disruptions amid rising tensions in the Middle East offset a weak demand outlook for oil. The growing risk of a wider conflict in the Middle East supported crude prices. According to reports, Gaza's largest functioning hospital was under siege on Friday in Israel's war with Islamist group Hamas, as warplanes struck Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians in the enclave. Benchmark crude oil futures for March delivery rose $1.16 or 1.49% to settle at $79.19 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude for April delivery gained $0.51 or 0.63% to $83.87 per barrel on London's Intercontinental Exchange.  

Indian rupee ended higher against the U.S. dollar on Friday amid positive sentiment in the domestic equity markets and softening crude oil prices. Traders got encouragement as commerce ministry in its latest data has said that India's merchandise exports rose to a three-month high of 3.12 per cent to $36.92 billion in January 2024 as compared to $35.80 billion in January 2023 despite global uncertainties including the Red Sea crisis. In contrast, imports also rose by about 3 per cent to $54.41 billion in January 2024 as compared to $52.83 billion in January 2023. On the global front, dollar firmed on Friday after two days of declines but was still on track for its fifth straight weekly gain as investors scaled back expectations for Federal Reserve rate cuts. Finally, the rupee ended at 83.01 (Provisional), stronger by 4 paise from its previous close of 83.05 on Thursday.

The FIIs as per Friday's data were net buyers in both equity and debt segments. In equity segment, the gross buying was of Rs 15021.09 crore against gross selling of Rs 13878.04 crore, while in the debt segment, the gross purchase was of Rs 1553.00 crore with gross sales of Rs 694.82 crore. Besides, in the hybrid segment, the gross buying was of Rs 21.83 crore against gross selling of Rs 6.89 crore.

The US markets ended lower on Friday as yields rose on the back of steeper-than-expected rise of 0.3 per cent in US Producer Price Index for January as against 0.1 per cent expectation. Asian markets are trading mixed on Monday as China equities opened higher on resuming trade after a one-week holiday and after China's central bank left rates untouched on Sunday. Indian markets closed higher for a fourth straight session on Friday tracking gains in blue chips like L&T, Infosys and M&M, amid strength in other global markets. Today, markets are likely to continue their northward journey with positive start amid mixed global cues. Investors will be eyeing the RBI and US FOMC's latest meeting minutes to be out later in the week. Some support will come as India's outward foreign direct investment (FDI) commitments rose by 25.7 per cent on a year-on-year (Y-o-Y) basis to $2.09 billion in January 2024, compared to over $1.66 billion in January 2023. Traders will be taking encouragement as India's G-20 Sherpa and former NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said India needs to grow at an annual rate of 9-10 per cent for around three decades and constant innovations to become a $35 trillion economy by 2047. Traders may take note of a State of India's Digital Economy Report, 2024, by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), stating that India is the third largest digitalised country in the world, only behind the United States of America (USA) and China. Besides, Ashima Goyal, an external member of the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has said India's headline inflation rate should soon come down to core inflation levels. Meanwhile, the government has operationalised the central processing centre for processing filings under the companies law and LLP Act in a time-bound and faceless manner as part of efforts to further improve the ease of doing business. However, there may be some cautiousness as latest data by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed that India's foreign exchange reserves dipped by of $5.24 billion to $617.23 billion for the week ending on February 9. IT stocks will be in focus as Nasscom's - Strategic Review 2024: Rewiring Growth in the Changing Tech Landscape - showed that with the Indian information-technology (IT) industry's growth rate falling to a low single digit, the ambition of becoming a $350 billion industry by 2026 seems a difficult task. The sector is expected to touch $253.9 billion in FY24, growing at 3.8 per cent year-on-year. Growth has fallen from the 8.4 per cent in the previous financial year. Stocks related to defence industry will be in limelight with a report that the Defence Ministry has given approval for a proposal to buy nine maritime surveillance aircraft for the Indian Navy and six maritime patrol aircraft for the Indian Coast Guard.

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  • Cipla has tied up with CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute to jointly develop a novel ophthalmic formulation for fungal keratitis.
  • M&M and Volkswagen Group have signed the first supply agreement on components of Volkswagen's MEB for Mahindra's purpose-built electric platform INGLO, taking a definitive step further on their joint vision for e-mobility collaboration.
  • Bharti Airtel has launched four new, next-gen Company owned stores in the city of Cochin.
  • Tata Motors along with its authorised distributor - Tata Africa Holdings has launched its successful range of multipurpose heavy-duty trucks - Ultra T.9 and Ultra T.14, in South Africa.

News Analysis