MUMBAI (Reuters) - The BSE Sensex fell on Monday for an eighth consecutive session, marking their longest losing streak since May 2011 as ONGC retreated ahead of quarterly results, while financial stocks fell after the central bank governor said inflation was "still high."
Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao reiterated his warning ahead of the January wholesale price index data, due on Thursday, reinforcing market worries inflation remains sticky even as economic growth has sharly slowed down.
Trading was light and choppy as the Lunar New Year holiday shut most Asian financial centres, including those in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea.
Domestic shares are expected to retain their weak tone in the lead-up to the 2013/14 budget to be unveiled on February 28, after indexes had rallied last year.
"Pre-budget party looks to be over. Sentiment is turning weak," said Vijay Kedia, director at private wealth management firm Kedia Investments.
The market may drift further down, Kedia added.
The Sensex fell 0.12 percent, or 24.20 points, to end at 19,460.57, its lowest close since December 31 and its longest losing streak since a nine-session fall in May 2011.
The broader Nifty fell 0.1 percent, or 5.65 points, to end at 5,897.85, closing below the psychologically important 5,900 level, for the first time since December 27, 2011.
The country's new stock exchange MCX-SX started trading shares on Monday with thin volumes, taking up a steep challenge to build liquidity and win market share against dominant player National Stock Exchange (NSE) and the smaller and older BSE Ltd.
At Monday's close, the value of shares traded on the MCX-SX was 6.9 million rupees, its website showed, compared to 94.
Oil and Natural Gas Corp(ONGC.NS) fell 1.7 percent ahead of its October-December quarter earnings later in the day.
Financial stocks fell as Subbarao's warning on inflation comes after government on Friday estimated the economy growing at 5.0 percent in the fiscal year ending in March, although Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said over the weekend he still expected 5.5 percent growth.
BGR Energy Systems Ltd(BGRE.NS) fell 2.7 percent to a one-year low after margins missed estimates and as high interest costs resulted in a 24.3 percent fall in December quarter net profit.
Cadila Healthcare(CADI.NS) ended 6.2 percent lower after earlier falling as much as 8.9 percent as October-December earnings disappointed on Friday.
Credit Suisse also downgraded the stock to "neutral" from "outperform", citing delay in contribution from higher margin products.
Hexaware Technologies gained 3.13 percent after it guided for "double-digit" revenue growth in 2013 with 150-200 bps sequential margin expansion in the first quarter.
Additional reporting by Manoj Dharra; Editing by Sunil Nair