The BSE Sensex was little changed on Wednesday as investors weighed up results from the country's biggest software services firm, while energy conglomerate Reliance Industries (RELI.NS) and airline stocks rallied.
Reliance, the country's biggest company by market capitalization, was up 3.8 percent, after the company said it would consider a share buyback on Friday. The company, controlled by Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man, saw its share price battered by around 35 percent in 2011. The company had cash and cash equivalents of 614.9 billion rupees as of the end of September.
The underlying trend going forward is good, the sentiment has turned for the better... with macro numbers showing a positive tick, said Ambareesh Baliga, chief operating officer at Way2Wealth Securities. But with a heavyweight like TCS disappointing with its results, a flat market is to be expected, he added.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS.NS), India's biggest software services provider, fell 3.3 percent after the company released its quarterly results late on Tuesday.TCS met estimates with a 23 percent rise in net profit during the December quarter, but analysts were cautious on signs that the anticipated slowdown due to economic turmoil in Europe and the United States was starting to bite.
Financial services revenue growth was the lowest since the March 2010 quarter, reflecting ramp-up challenges in some of the top financial services clients, said Emkay Global Research, which cut its revenue estimates for TCS on Wednesday.
Rival Infosys (INFY.NS), which cut its fiscal year revenue growth outlook last week due to the euro zone debt crisis, was down 2.0 percent. Carriers surged for a second consecutive day after the federal aviation ministry said on Tuesday it would recommend that the government allow foreign airlines to buy stakes of up to 49 percent in the country's carriers. Jet Airways (JET.NS), India's biggest airline, climbed 9.8 percent, debt-laden Kingfisher Airlines (KING.NS) was up 7.2 percent and SpiceJet (SPJT.BO) rose 7.2 percent.
The main 30-share BSE index was up 0.11 percent at 0510 GMT, with 18 of its components advancing.
Essar Oil (ESRO.NS) slumped as much as 20 percent after India's Supreme Court passed a ruling late on Tuesday that means the refiner will no longer be able to defer payment of a sales tax.
The stock later recovered some losses and was down 11.9 percent. The 50-share NSE index was down 0.1 percent. In the broader market, gainers slightly outpaced losers on total volume of about 232 million shares.
Markets across Asia steadied on Wednesday after sentiment improved on soothing economic data the day before, as focus returns to Europe with Portugal testing investor confidence in a debt sale and Greece resuming talks on its debt restructuring.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.1 percent at 0510 GMT, while Tokyo's Nikkei average was up 1.2 percent.
STOCKS ON THE MOVE
* Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL.NS) rose as much as 5 percent after the Business Standard newspaper reported the explorer's natural gas discovery off the coast of Mozambique may hold 15 trillion to 30 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.
* Reliance Infrastructure (RLIN.NS) rose as much as 3.8 percent after the company said it has injected 5.2 billion rupees into two joint venture power projects in New Delhi.