MUMBAI The BSE Sensex edged higher on Friday as strong buying by foreign investors boosted blue-chips such as Larsen & Toubro and kept both indexes not too far from their record highs, although some caution was setting in about the pace of recent gains.
Foreign investors have been driving the rally in Indian shares, despite concerns in global markets over the outlook for China's economy and continued military tensions in Ukraine.
Overseas funds were net buyers of $148.6 million worth of shares in primary and secondary markets on Thursday, marking a 19th buying session in the previous 20 for a total of more than $2 billion.
Analysts attributed the strong foreign flows to hopes about easing inflation and an improving domestic economy.
Data on Friday showed wholesale price inflation eased to a nine-month low of 4.68 percent in February, while reports earlier this week showed a sharp easing in consumer inflation and a slight uptick in industrial output.
But investors are also booking profit in some of the recent gainers, with the Sensex and the Nifty ending the week with mild losses, thus snapping a three-week winning streak.
"I expect markets to trade volatile in the near-term and global factors will mainly affect markets. Since it (markets) moved so sharply, I feel there is limited upside left at this level. And we do have serious downside risks. We are recommending our clients to book profits on those stocks which have moved sharply," said Daljeet S Kohli, head of research at brokerage, India Nivesh.
The Sensex rose 0.16 percent, or 35.19 points, to end at 21,809.80 points, not far from a record high of 22,023.98 points hit on Monday. It fell 0.5 percent for the week.
The Nifty added 0.17 percent to 6,504.20 points, off an all-time high of 6,562.85 hit on Tuesday. The index fell 0.34 percent for the week.
Domestic economy-driven blue-chips led the gainers, with Larsen & Toubro Ltd (LART.NS) up 2.4 percent, while Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL.NS) rose 2.7 percent.
Among other gainers, Infosys Ltd (INFY.NS) rose 1.1 percent after investors gauged its 8.5 percent fall on Thursday as overdone. Shares were hit in the previous session after chairman Chairman Narayana Murthy said revenue for the fiscal year ending March could grow at the lower end of the company's 11.5 to 12 percent projection.
Shares in Sun Pharmaceutical Industries (SUN.NS) gained 1.59 percent, recovering some of its 5.2 percent fall on Thursday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned imports from one of the drug-maker's plant.
However, investors also booked profits in recent strong gainers. IndusInd Bank (INBK.NS) fell 0.2 percent, but still ended up 11.5 percent for the week. Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd (KTKM.NS) fell 1.1 percent but rose 6.2 percent for the week.
Axis Bank Ltd (AXBK.NS) fell 1.9 percent after a government official said India is aiming to raise 30-40 billion rupees via the sale of a stake held by a state-run trust fund in the bank.
Shares in L&T Finance Holdings (LTFH.NS) closed 6.25 percent lower after the non-banking financial company set a floor price for its stake sale at 70 rupees per share, or an 11.5 percent discount to Thursday's closing price.
(Reporting by Indulal PM; Editing by Sunil Nair)