Sensex plunges by over 600 pts in pre-close trade

Mumbai, Feb 24 (PTI) The BSE benchmark Sensex was down byover 600 points ahead of the close of trade today on all-roundselling prompted by concerns that rising crude oil prices andinflation may force the Reserve Bank to hike interest rates.

The Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex suffered a618.63 points to 17,559.70 at 1515 hours, with banking andconsumer durable stocks the worst-hit by the panicky marketsentiment.

Similarly, the broad-based National Stock Exchange Niftyindex was down by 194.85 points at 5,242.50.

The Sensex opened on a weak note and went into a tailspinthereafter, following reports of a rise inflation, coupledwith 30-month high crude oil prices amid unrest in Libya andthe Middle East.

This raised concerns of a hike in interest rate bycentral banks across the South East Asian region, whichfurther vitiated the mood, analysts said.

A weakening trend in the Asian region and the continueddecline of European stocks falling for the fifth straight day-- extending the longest losing streak since October --contributed to the market''s woes, they said.

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