Indian shares edged lower on Monday as a delay in monsoon rains and caution ahead of the federal budget kept investor sentiment cautious, while two-wheeler stocks were in focus on government's push for electric vehicles.
Indian monsoon has been progressing slower-than-expected, leading to a delay in planting of summer-sown crops in the country, and raising concerns over lower agricultural production.
Monsoons deliver about 70% of India's annual rainfall and are the lifeblood of its $2.5-trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.
Investors are also awaiting new Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's first union budget on July 5, for the fiscal year ending March 2020.
The broader Nifty fell 0.18% to 11,703.55 as of 10.49 a.m. IST, while the benchmark Sensex inched down 0.2% to 39,114.39.
"I think we'll see some choppiness and volatility in the markets till the union budget is done and dusted," said Gaurang Shah, senior vice-president, Geojit Financial Services in Mumbai, adding that monsoon is one of the biggest concerns right now.
Shah expects some volatility owing to F&O expiry later this week, along with the meeting between the U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and tensions between the U.S and Iran.
Two-wheeler makers Bajaj Auto and Hero MotoCorp were the top losers on the NSE index by percentage, falling more than 2% each.
India's federal think-tank has asked scooter and motorbike manufacturers to draw up a plan to switch to electric vehicles days after they publicly opposed the government's proposals saying they would disrupt the sector, two sources told Reuters.
Bucking the trend, UPL Ltd and Yes Bank Ltd rose 3.4% and 2.6%, respectively and were the top gainers on the NSE index by percentage.
Among other gainers, JMC Projects India rose as much as 3.6% after it secured new orders worth 5.14 billion rupees ($73.88 million).
Meanwhile, Asian shares were off to a cautious start too as investors pinned their hopes on any signs of a thaw in Sino-U.S. trade negotiations, while oil prices firmed on worries over heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.16% in early trade.
($1 = 69.5700 rupees)