Indian shares were little changed in thin trade on Thursday, a day ahead of retail inflation data and the onset of corporate results, while investors stayed on the sidelines as voting began in the weeks-long general election.
IT giants Infosys Ltd and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd kick off the final quarter results for fiscal 2019 on Friday. Both companies are expected to post a year-on-year gain in net profit, according to Refinitiv eikon data.
"Earnings has been disappointing for the last five years now. We started fiscal 2019 with expectations of a robust earnings growth, but we are now looking at a very modest growth in earnings for FY 19," said Ajay Bodke, CEO-PMS at Prabhudas Lilladher in Mumbai.
"Hopes have been pushed back to FY 20 and FY 21, where markets are expecting between 18 and 22 percent earnings growth."
Aggregate data on 399 of India's largest listed companies, for which comparable data is available, shows earnings have fallen in four of the five years under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's tenure, whereas they rose in four out of the five years during the tenure of his predecessor, Manmohan Singh.
Investor focus has also shifted to the first phase of voting for the national election in which Modi is seeking a second term after campaigning strongly for national security, following tensions with Pakistan. Almost 900 million of India's 1.3 billion people are eligible to vote.
India's retail inflation is expected to have accelerated to 2.80 percent in March from 2.57 percent in February on slightly higher food prices, a Reuters poll predicted. It, however, remains under the Reserve Bank of India's medium-term target of 4 percent.
The broader NSE Nifty was down 0.08 percent at 11,574.65 as of 0626 GMT, while the benchmark BSE Sensex was 0.12 percent lower at 38,537.9.
Asian shares retreated from eight-month highs as European and U.S. central banks reinforced investor worries about the global economic outlook and trade protectionism.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.05 percent.
Bharti Airtel Ltd was the top percentage gainer on the NSE index, rising 2.7 percent. Oil marketers Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd, Indian Oil Corpn Ltd and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd gained between 0.8 percent and 1.9 percent.
Meanwhile, the benchmark crude slipped 0.36 percent.
Among the decliners, Vedanta Ltd dropped in morning trade, falling as much as 4.4 percent. Nearly 2,000 Zambian villagers have the right to sue mining company in the English courts, London's Supreme Court said on Wednesday.