The markets opened choppy with a positive bias in a week that will be dominated by macroeconomic data and quarterly earnings announcements of big companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Bharti Airtel, and ACC. A firming trend in Asian markets also buoyed sentiment.
At 9:16 a.m., the 30-share BSE Sensex rose 39.64 points to 19,326.36, while the 50-share NSE Nifty gained 10 points to trade at 5,882.05.
Auto stocks rallied, led by Maruti Suzuki, on the back of positive earnings. India's largest carmaker defied the worst slowdown in 12 years for India's car market with a stunning 80 per cent year on year increase in net profit at Rs. 1,150 crore for the fourth quarter, benefiting from robust sales of its Ertiga multi-purpose vehicle and a sharp decline in the yen.
Hero MotoCorp rose on better than expected Q4 results. The two-wheeler market leader reported a 4.86 per cent decline in net profit at Rs. 574.23 crore, its third successive fall in quarterly profits hit by a demand slump, after market hours on Friday. The company has hiked prices ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,500 across all models with immediate effect.
The BSE Auto index gained 0.5 per cent.
Hero MotoCorp was the top gainer (4.9 per cent) on the Sensex, followed by Bharti Airtel (1.81 per cent) and Maruti (1.16 per cent).
Bharti Airtel had a good run on Friday with the stock gaining 4.8 per cent on expectations of better-than-expected earnings for January-March, taking cues from Idea Cellular which beat March quarter earnings estimates.
Jindal Steel (1.97 per cent) and Hindalco (1.31 per cent) were the main index laggards.
Jindal Steel said in a statement on Thursday that its March-quarter consolidated net profit fell 34.88 per cent to Rs. 760 crore, missing estimates.
Kotak Institutional Equities said the company's March quarter performance was difficult to explain as its steel realization declined by Rs. 3,000 per ton at a time when the price decline in the market was Rs. 500 per ton.
"This inexplicable performance would require clarification from the management," Kotak said in a report.
FMCG major Hindustan Unilever traded lower ahead of its Q4 earnings announcement today. The company is expected to report a 9.8 per cent year on year growth in net profit to Rs.730 crore. However, EBITDA margins will likely be flat at 17.7 per cent on subdued consumer demand.
The Reserve Bank's monetary policy review and the next set of corporate results will be key for stock markets in this holiday-shortened week.
"There will be some correction this week, as indicated by Friday's trading session, after a seven-day rally. Investors are on the edge and will wait for RBI's policy to decide whether to sell and go away in May or hang in there. Mood will also depend upon some big-ticket Q4 numbers slated in the week," said Vikas Jain, founder, Aditya Trading Solutions.
Easing inflation has raised expectations that the central bank might go for cut in interest rate in its monetary policy meeting on May 3.
The BSE benchmark Sensex gained for the second straight week on buying mainly in rate-sensitive sectors on hopes of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank. The 30-share Sensex gained 1.42 per cent to end the week at 19,286.72.
The stock markets will be closed on Wednesday for 'Maharashtra Day'.
With inputs from agencies