Indian shares flat as autos surge further, financials fall

BENGALURU, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Indian shares were little changed on Thursday, as a non-stop rally in automotive stocks countered weak global investor sentiment over expanding COVID-19 restrictions in the United States.

The NSE Nifty 50 index hit a record high for the third time this week, as investors bet on a faster return to economic growth following a series of upbeat COVID-19 vaccine test results.

The Nifty 50 was up 0.06% at 12,945.75 by 0510 GMT, gaining for a fourth straight session, while the S&P BSE Sensex was down 0.03% at 44,162.76.

Auto stocks gained for a twelfth straight session after Hero MotoCorp reported sales of more than 1.4 million motorcycles and scooters during the festive season, which culminated with Diwali earlier this week.

Hero jumped 3.7%, while 12 of the 15 stocks on the Nifty auto index were also trading higher.

“The kind of auto sales numbers we’re seeing shows that normalcy may be returning quicker than expected,” said Siddharth Sedani, head of equity advisory at Anand Rathi Financial Services in Mumbai.

“But the second wave is currently a worry in people’s minds. That would be one reason for a correction (in the market) if it happens,” Sedani said, referring to coronavirus infections in India.

In Delhi, the tally of cases crossed 500,000 on Thursday, although infections elsewhere in the country continued to fall.

Pfizer said on Wednesday its COVID-19 vaccine was 95% effective and it would apply for emergency U.S. authorization soon.

Several U.S. states weighed or implemented shutdown measures, hitting Wall Street and Asian shares.

Financial stocks were the biggest drags on the Nifty 50. Mortgage lender HDFC and ICICI Bank slipped nearly 1.5% each.

Airline SpiceJet, a Boeing customer, jumped 9.4% after the United States lifted a 20-month-old flight ban on the 737 MAX. (Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)