MUMBAI (Reuters) - The BSE Sensex edged higher in the first trading session of a new fiscal year, as Infosys gained on optimism about its fourth-quarter earnings, while Larsen & Toubro gained after winning a $1 billion power plant order.
Although Monday marked the third consecutive session of gains, the outlook for shares remains weighed down by concerns about the Indian economy after data on Thursday showed the current account deficit for the October-December quarter widened to a record high of 6.7 percent of GDP.
Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Monday reiterated the government's commitment to additional economic reforms during a news conference in Tokyo, but investors remained concerned about political stability after the DMK's withdrawal from the ruling UPA coalition last month. (Read full story here)
Investors are also gearing up for earnings later this month, which would indicate how much impact the struggling economy is having on corporate profits.
"Q4 results will reflect some pressure on revenues and margins but they may be near the trough levels," said Paras Adenwala, Managing Director & Principal Portfolio Manager, Capital Portfolio Advisors.
The Sensex ended up 0.15 percent, or 28.98 points, at 18,864.75 after gaining 0.8 percent over the previous two sessions. Markets were closed on Friday for a public holiday.
The Nifty rose 0.38 percent, or 21.85 points, to 5,704.40.
The weaker economy remains a drag on indexes that just last week had hit their lowest since late November 2012.
Other data on Monday showed the HSBC manufacturing PMI fell to 52.0 in March, dragged down by cooling domestic and foreign demand, while infrastructure sector output slumped 2.5 percent in February from a year earlier.
Still, individual shares pushed up indexes on Monday.
Larsen & Toubro (LART.NS) shares gained 2.4 percent after the company said it has received an 56.89-billion-rupee contract for a power plant in Rajasthan.
Shares in Infosys Ltd (INFY.NS) gained 2 percent on hopes about its January-March quarter earnings, due on April 12.
In January, Infosys had unexpectedly raised its sales forecast for the year ending March 31 to at least $7.45 billion, including $104 million in additional revenue following its acquisition of Switzerland-based consultancy Lodestone Holdings in September.
Shares in Cairn India Ltd (CAIL.NS) rose 5 percent after Kotak Institutional Equities upgraded the stock to "buy" from "add" and kept its target price of 340 rupees, saying the current price provides a good entry point as valuations and expectations have turned reasonable.
Dr.Reddy's Laboratories Ltd (REDY.NS) gained 3.4 percent after the company on Thursday said it launched Zenatane, a generic version of Accutane drug, following its approval by the United States Food & Drug Administration.
Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd (RANB.NS) shares gained 3 percent after unit Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals resumed supply of Atorvastatin calcium tablets in the U.S.
Generic drug makers Natco Pharma Ltd (NATP.NS) rose 5.4 percent while Cipla Ltd (CIPL.NS) gained 1.3 percent after the Supreme Court dismissed Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG's (NOVN.VX) petition seeking patent for its cancer drug Glivec.
The landmark judgment has the potential to change the direction of India's pharmaceutical business, according to analysts. (Read full story here)
Novartis India shares ended 1.8 percent lower.
Among other decliners, Sterlite Industries (India) (STRL.NS) shares fell 4.5 percent after the company said a copper smelter run by the company in Tamil Nadu has been closed after a preliminary inspection by state pollution regulator.
(Additional reporting by Abhishek Vishnoi; Editing by Sunil Nair)