Stocks in India finally took a breather on Thursday after trading higher for three straight days. Investors in the Far East squared up positions ahead of the annual budget set to be released by Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram on Friday morning. This will be the last full budget report Indian investors will see before the start of general elections in May 2009.
An economic report released by the Indian government Thursday forecasted India's gross domestic product to grow at 8.7% -- slightly higher than the Reserve Bank of India's projection of 8.5%. The report highlighted the U.S. economic slowdown.
"There are several challenges to inclusive growth-agriculture, infrastructure, education and skill development," said Chidambaram to local reports. "Keeping inflation under control in an uncertain global environment will be one of the major challenges in 2008-09."
The Bombay Stock Exchange 30-share benchmark Sensex Index closed flat, down just 1.5 points at 17,824.48.Speculation of a land sale involving Tata Communications (TCL) is making the rounds on Wall Street Thursday. Jay Somaney a RealMoney.com contributor said he is hearing from his sources that the government of India has approved an auction involving a land bank held by Tata. Shares of Tata Communications closed up 0.4% at $25.60. Technology firm Satyam (SAY) is reported to be in talks for eight to nine domestic deals that range in size from $25 million to $50 million, according to The Financial Express. Satyam and Infosys (INFY - Get Report) are also reported to be vying for a large IT outsourcing deal with the Indian Railways, according to thehindubusinessline.com. Shares of Satyam fell 0.9% to $26.67, and Infosys fell 2.6% to $40.92. Leading the decliners among the Indian ADRs were ICICI Bank (IBN), trading off by 3.3% to $53.88, information technology firm Wipro (WIT), falling 2.9% to $11.94, and HDFC Bank (HDB), dropping 2.6% to $113.28. Be sure to check out the Far East Portfolio at Stockpickr.com every night to find out which stocks in India and China are making big moves and announcing major news.