Sensex plunges 261 pts to close below 18k, lowest in 7-mth

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Mumbai, Feb 8 (PTI) The BSE benchmark Sensex today closedbelow 18,000 for the first time in about seven months, losingover 261 points as funds sold stocks amid concerns that risinginflation will trigger further hike in interest rates and trimcorporate earnings.

The Bombay Stock Exchange index, Sensex, which had edgedup a bit in the previous session, dropped by 261.49 points, or1.45 per cent to 17,775.70, a level last seen on July 8.

It touched the day'' low of 17,742.18.

The gauge, the world�s worst performer this year afterEgypt, fell to close below 18,000 for the first time sinceJuly 26. It has lost 15 per cent from its all-time high onNovember 5.

In a similar fashion, the broad-based National StockExchange index Nifty dropped below 5,400 points level to closewith a loss of 83.45 points, or 1.55 per cent to 5,312.55,after touching the day''s low of 5,303.40.

A mixed trading pattern in the Asian region and loweropening in Europe also influenced the market sentiment.

Brokers said rising input costs raised concerns that theywould hurt corporate earnings and that the rising inflationwill force RBI to further hike interest rate.

They said the impact of the fall was more pronounced ininterest sensitive industries such as realty, consumerdurables, banking and auto.

In the 30-BSE index components, 25 stocks closed withlosses led by Hero Honda, Tata Motors, ICICI Bank, Larsen andToubro and HDFC Bank.

Hero Honda Motors, a motorcycle maker, lost 4.06 per centto Rs 1,513.15, extending its drop this year to 24 per centafter a split with its Japanese partner.

Tata Motors, also a Sensex kitty stock fell 2.86 per centto Rs 1,113.10 and Mahindra and Mahindra by 5.97 per cent toRs 628.65, its lowest since September.

RBI hiked its policy rates last month for the seventhtime since March last year.

The realty sector index, a highly interest rate sensitiveindex suffered a loss of 3.08 per cent to 2,167.13 andconsumer durable index by 3.81 per cent to 5,604.82.

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