May 16, 2019 / 6:24 AM / 3 months ago

Indian shares muted; all eyes on exit polls

* NSE index rises 0.13%, BSE index 0.05% higher

* April trade deficit widened

* InterGlobe Aviation falls on reports of promoters falling out

By Arnab Paul

May 16 (Reuters) - Indian shares were little changed in light trade on Thursday, with losses in pharmaceutical stocks offsetting gains in IT counters, as investors stuck to the sidelines ahead of exit polls on Sunday.

India’s mammoth seven-phase general election began on April 11 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the front runner.

However, opposition parties have taken heart at what they see as signs that BJP may be losing ground and have begun negotiations over a post-election alliance even before polling ends on May 19.

With results out on May 23, exit polls, which have often proved unreliable in India, are seen as indicators to which party forms the government.

“Though quarterly results are leading to buying and selling of certain stocks, overall there is a wait-and-watch sentiment in the market ahead of the exit polls,” said Anita Gandhi, whole-time director at Arihant Capital Markets.

“Even if the outcome of elections is not exactly favourable for the ruling party, 10,600 is a strong support level for NSE.”

The broader NSE index was up 0.13% at 11,170.80 as of 0619 GMT, while the benchmark BSE index was 0.05% higher at 37,134.88.

The trading sentiment also remained muted by the country’s trade deficit widening to $15.33 billion in April, with imports growing 4.5%.

Shares of InterGlobe Aviation Ltd fell 6.5% on reports of promoters falling out over differences in, among other things, strategies and ambitions for the airline.

Drug maker Lupin Ltd fell 6% to a nearly seven-week low after missing March-quarter profit estimates on Wednesday. It dragged the pharma index 1.7% lower.

Torrent Power Ltd dropped 6% after reporting a near 88% slump in quarterly profit on Wednesday.

Among gainers, Infosys Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd pulled the Nifty IT index 0.7% higher.

Tata Chemicals Ltd and Tata Global Beverages Ltd surged over 7% each after Tata Global Beverages took over consumer products business from Tata Chemicals. (Reporting By Arnab Paul in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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