July 23, 2020 / 5:37 AM / 23 days ago

Indian shares track Wall Street higher, pharma stocks jump on U.S. trade deal hopes

* NSE index 0.3% higher, BSE index rises 0.15%

* Nifty Pharma index gains 1.1%

* BPCL up 4.7%

By Derek Francis

BENGALURU, July 23 (Reuters) - Indian shares ticked higher on Thursday as investors were encouraged by overnight gains on Wall Street, even as domestic coronavirus cases crossed 1.2 million.

The NSE Nifty 50 index rose 0.3% to 11,166.7 by 0455 GMT and the S&P BSE Sensex gained 0.15% to 37,927.93, led by pharma stocks, seen as a key beneficiary of a possible trade deal between India and the United States.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that New Delhi sought concessions for generic drugs it exports to the United States in return for opening its dairy markets and slashing tariffs on farm goods as the two sides seek to shore up a new trade deal.

The main U.S. indexes ended higher on Wednesday as investors digested mixed corporate earnings and contentious stimulus negotiations, while Sino-U.S. tensions grew after Washington closed a Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas.

Asian markets began trading on a weaker note weighed by Chinese stocks.

“There have been concerns about the U.S.-China tensions for a few days now. But the expectation is that India could be a key beneficiary of that,” said Siddhartha Khemka, head of research at Motilal Oswal Financial Services in Mumbai.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged India on Wednesday to reduce its dependence on China, as Washington’s ties with Beijing deteriorate dramatically.

In Mumbai, the Nifty pharma index rose 1.1% and topped the percentage gainers among sectors on Thursday. Generic Drugmaker Cipla advanced 1.5%.

Bharat Petroleum rose 4.7% to the top of the Nifty index, followed by Zee Entertainment gaining 4%.

Lender Axis Bank was the session’s top laggard, falling 2.79%.

India reported 45,720 coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1.24 million by Thursday morning, according to government data https://www.mohfw.gov.in.

The domestic surge came as the global tally crossed 15 million and a World Health Organization expert said the first use of a COVID-19 vaccine cannot be expected till early 2021. (Reporting by Derek Francis in Bengaluru; Editing by Rashmi Aich)

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