The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Sensex remained bullish on Monday, gaining 1.57 percent or 258 points, riding on strong market sentiments as investors looked forward to a robust earning season.

The benchmark 30-share sensitivity index rose 258.13 points to close at 16,739.33 with 23 components gaining. During intraday trade, the prime index touched a high of 16,778.59 and a low of 16,611.41.

Monday's rally helped the Sensex post its highest close since March 5 when it closed at 16,542.08. The index, which hit a record high of 21,206.77 on Jan. 10, is still down about 18 percent this year.

The Sensex surge was led by Tata Steel, Jaiprakash Associates and Reliance Communications which posted whopping gains of 8.61 percent, 7.27 percent and 5.42 percent to end up at Rs.776.80, Rs.233.05 and Rs.559.10 respectively.

Banking majors HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank and market leader state-run State Bank of India (SBI) advanced 3.50 percent, 3.39 percent and 3.47 percent to Rs.1445.25, Rs.863.55 and Rs.1741.20 respectively.

Telecom giant Bharti Airtel rose 3.76 percent to Rs.854.20.

Auto majors Maruti Suzuki and Tata Motors climbed 0.92 percent and 0.74 percent to Rs.766.95 and Rs.622.70 respectively.

Real estate major DLF gained 0.41 percent to Rs.651.25 while engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) advanced 2.49 percent to Rs.2845.40.

Sensex heavyweight Reliance Industries (RIL) gained 0.20 percent to Rs.2642.15 as it announced, on Monday, a 24 percent rise in quarterly net profit that beat analysts' expectations, boosted by high refining margins. Net profit for the top-listed refiner's fourth quarter period rose to Rs.3912 crore ($978 million), from Rs.3156 crore ($789 million) a year earlier.

Other major gainers were Ranbaxy Laboratories (up 3.99 percent to Rs.498.95), Hindalco (up 2.95 percent to Rs.191.85), Grasim Industries (up 2.93 percent to Rs.2643.95), NTPC (up 2.51 percent to Rs.194.25), Hindustan Unilever (up 1.48 percent to Rs.235.85), ONGC (up 1.43 percent to Rs.1030.50), Reliance Energy (up 0.73 percent to Rs.1345) and Ambuja Cements (up 0.35 percent to Rs.113.50).

IT stocks were the major losers with Satyam Computer Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro and market leader Tata Consultancy Services plunging 2.13 percent, 1.28 percent, 1.21 percent and 0.83 percent to Rs.458.95, Rs.1645.05, Rs.453.65 and Rs.992.55 respectively.

According to market analysts, a lower-than-expected quarterly result announced by Satyam on Monday led to the decline of its stock. Satyam reported a 17.8 percent surge in Q4 net profit for the quarter ended March 31, 2008, at Rs.468.45 crore ($117.1 million) as against Rs.397.51 crore ($99.4 million) in the corresponding quarter a year ago.

Among the sectoral indices, the IT and FMCG counters had a poor day, falling 1.03 and 0.06 percent respectively. However, other counters showed healthy gains with Metal, Bankex, Consumer Durables, Consumer Goods and PSU surging 3.78 percent, 3.43 percent, 3.26 percent, 2.07 percent and 2.05 percent respectively.

The BSE Midcap and Smallcap indices posted healthy gains, climbing 2.15 percent and 2.60 percent to 6983.26 and 8752.83 respectively.

The BSE market breadth was overall positive as 2052 shares advanced, 674 shares declined and 46 shares remained unchanged.

The broader 50-share S&P CNX Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) ended up 1.63 percent or 81 points at 5039.35. The index touched an intraday high of 5,053.40 and a low of 4,955.90.

The confidence level of the investors is gradually increasing. The Q4 results have also been good and it may further boost the market's sentiment, said Nipun Mehta, CEO, Unitis Tower Wealth Advisors.

Elsewhere in South Asia, Pakistan's Karachi 100 fell 0.14 percent to 15,654.79 and Sri Lanka's Colombo All-Share declined 0.33 percent to 2662.93, giving in to pressure of market volatility. However, Bangladesh's Dhaka Stock Exchange gained 0.33 percent to 3081.37.

The Asian markets remained mostly up with Japan's Nekkei 225 rising 1.63 percent to 13,696.55 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng surging 2.17 percent to 24,721.67.

China's Shanghai Composite gained 0.72 percent to 3116.98; Taiwan's Taiex advanced 0.10 percent to 9083.32, South Korea's Kospi zoomed 1.61 percent to 1800.48; Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Composite climbed 0.97 percent to 1280; and, Singapore's Straits Times ended up 1.48 percent to 3171.09.

However, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite ended down 0.57 percent to 2335.89.