Indian equity benchmarks are poised to open higher with solid gains on Friday, following firm cues from Asian peers and strong finish at Wall Street overnight. The positive trends on SGX Nifty also indicated a gap-up opening for the domestic bourses, with SGX Nifty futures trading 290 points, or 1.8%, higher at 16,526 on the Singapore Stock Exchange at 7:50 AM.

On Thursday, the domestic benchmark indices extended fall for the seventh straight session by crashing nearly 5% due to escalated political tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The S&P BSE Sensex plunged 2,702 points, 4.72%, to settle at 54,530, while the Nifty 50 dropped 815 points, or 4.78%, to settle at 16,248. Investors lost ₹13.44 lakh crore in wealth as the market capitalisation of BSE-listed companies dropped to ₹242.24 lakh crore from Wednesday's ₹255.68 lakh crore mark. All the sectoral indices on the BSE and the NSE ended in red, while realty, auto, oil and gas were among biggest losers. The broader market also saw sharp selling with BSE midcap and smallcap indices crashing 5.5% and 5.8%, respectively. All the top 30 shares on the BSE Sensex pack ended in negative terrain, led by IndusInd Bank, Tech Mahindra, Bajaj Finance, Mahindra & Mahindra, Reliance Industries, Bharti Airtel, Wipro and State Bank of India, which dropped up to 8%.

Stocks to watch

Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL): The FMCG major has announced the separation of the position of Chairman of the Board and the CEO & Managing Director. It has appointed Nitin Paranjpe as a Non-Executive Chairman of the company.

Wipro: The IT company will hire around 500 new professionals over the next fiscal year in Brazil to deliver cloud solutions to clients.

Gillette India: LIC of India has purchased 2,000 equity shares, or 0.1%, stake in the company via open market transactions on February 23. With this, LIC's holding in the company rose to 5%.

NHPC, HDFC Bank: The state-owned firm has inked a pact with HDFC bank to securitise return on equity of its 540-MW Chamera-I Power Plant in Himachal Pradesh for 10 years.

Seacoast Shipping Services: The company has entered into an agreement with Gujarat government to form a joint venture.

Here are the key things investors should know before the market opens today:

Wall Street rebounds as West imposes new sanctions on Russia

In the overnight trade, all three major U.S. indices closed higher in a highly volatile trade as U.S. and other Western countries imposed harsh new sanctions against Russia after Moscow began full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Indices opened lower and remained in negative territory most of the day, but staged a solid recovery after President Biden announced fresh sanctions against Russia.

Recouping previous session losses, the S&P 500 ended 1.5% higher, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 3.3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average settled 0.3% higher.

Asian stocks follow Wall Street higher

Shares in the Asia-Pacific region also opened higher on Friday, tracking overnight gains in Wall Street as investors remained on edge after recent selloffs on escalating Russia-Ukraine tensions.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.45% in early deals, South Korea’s KOSPI surged 1%, and the Straits Times Index in Singapore added 1% after tumbling more than 3% in the previous session.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong trades higher with marginal gains, Australia’s ASX 200 index gained 0.4%.

In mainland China, the Shenzhen component and the Shanghai composite rallied 2.1% and 1.1%, respectively, in early deals.

FIIs outflow continues amid Ukraine crisis

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) remained net sellers in the Indian equity market on February 24 amid ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) emerged as net buyers. As per the data available on the NSE, FIIs sold shares worth ₹6,448.2 crore, which was compensated by net purchase of shares worth ₹7,667.7 crore by the DIIs.

Brent crude retreats from record high

Global benchmark Brent crude were trading higher during early trade on Friday, albeit lower than record high touched in the previous session after Russia begun attack on Ukraine. The Brent crude hit 7-year high of $105 a barrel in the previous session after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered forces into eastern Ukraine's two breakaway regions.

During the early Asian trading hours on Friday, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures surged 2.2% to $94.88 a barrel, while the Brent oil futures rose 2.2% to $97.75 per barrel.

The industry experts warned that crude prices will test $110 per barrel in coming days as the West will ramp up its sanctions on Russia that can restrain crude supplies in an already tight market.

“The ongoing geopolitical turf between Russia and Ukraine will keep the oil prices buoyant at least in the short term and we envisage WTI crude prices to test levels of around $105 per barrel and $110 per barrel for Brent crude in coming days. However, prices are likely to remain capped at these higher levels, as markets are hopeful about the removal of sanctions on Iran oil sales very soon, which can add to the global supply,” says Sugandha Sachdeva, Vice President - Commodity and Currency Research, Religare Broking Ltd.

Gold rises on safe-haven buying

Gold prices continued upward trend on Friday as a sharp sell-off in equities prompted investors to shift focus to safer assets such as gold. The global equity markets witnessed sharp selling this week as Russian announced invasion of Ukraine and the West imposed more sanctions on Moscow for violating international norms. Spot gold was up 0.5% at $1,913.29 per ounce at the time of reporting.

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