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MUMBAI (Reuters) - The Sensex fell on Thursday to its lowest close in one-and-a-half months, led by a decline in banking stocks, after government estimates showed FY13 growth could be worse than expected, while drugmaker Cipla Ltd (CIPL.NS) dropped after its October-December net profit missed estimates.
India's slowest growth in a decade could be worse than anticipated preliminary data released on Thursday showed. The economy is set to grow 5.0 percent in the fiscal year ending next month, compared with central bank's forecast of 5.5 percent. (Read full story here)
Caution also prevailed as investors awaited the European Central Bank's policy meeting later in the day and President Mario Draghi's views on the region's growth outlook.
Analysts say consolidation is expected to continue ahead of the 2013/14 budget to be announced later this month, which is seen as a key test of the government's commitments to shore up its finances.
"The market perhaps wants to consolidate before any next move, ahead of the Budget, which can be a bit populist," said Vijay Kedia, director at private wealth management firm Kedia Securities.
The key things to watch for now are how many more reforms come and how soon they get implemented, to stoke growth and avoid rating cuts, added Kedia.
The Sensex fell 0.3 percent, or 59.40 points, to end at 19,580.32, falling for a sixth day to mark its biggest losing streak since November 21, 2011.
The broader Nifty fell 0.34 percent, or 20.40 points, to end at 5,938.80.
Bank stocks such as ICICI Bank Ltd (ICBK.NS) fell 0.9 percent, on concerns that growth is likely to slowdown even as inflation remains high, after government's FY 13 GDP estimates came in lower than market expectations.
Shares in Cipla Ltd (CIPL.NS) fell 2.7 percent, a day after the company's October-December net profit missed estimates, which were followed by downgrades from Morgan Stanley and CLSA citing lower-than-expected margins and earnings outlook.
State-run power utility NTPC Ltd (NTPC.NS) shares fell 2.5 percent after its shares sale price was set at 145 rupees, or at a 4.5 percent discount to its Wednesday's close.
NTPC's weight in MSCI India index would rise from 0.63 percent to 1.79 percent as the company's free float stock increases after its offer for sale, Citigroup said in a note, quoting MSCI.
Shares in Ambuja Cements Ltd (ABUJ.NS) fell 3.1 percent on expectations the company will post lower-than-expected earnings for the October-December quarter later in the day, dealers said.
Strides Arcolab Ltd STAR.NS ended 12.7 percent lower, after falling as much as 17.4 percent in Mumbai trading earlier on Thursday, as investors cast doubts on media reports that the drug maker may sell its injectable-medicines unit Agila Specialties.
Telecoms shares fell, tracking the sixth straight monthly fall in India's mobile phone subscriber base which declined by a net 25.88 million, or 2.9 percent, in December.
However, among the stocks that gained, auto components maker Bharat Forge (BFRG.NS) rose 1 percent after it said it was forming a joint venture with Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems (ESLT.TA) (ESLT.O) to supply advanced artillery and mortar systems to the Indian military.
Shares in ACC Ltd (ACC.NS), controlled by Swiss group Holcim HOLN.VX, the world's second-largest cement producer, ended 0.8 percent higher after its Oct-Dec net profit, met expectations.
Editing by Anupama Dwivedi