Indian equity benchmarks are set to open sharply lower on Friday, following bearish trend across Asian peers and negative finish at Wall Street overnight. The continued surge in commodity prices amid escalated Russia-Ukraine conflict and tightened sanctions on Moscow as well as reports of fire at Europe's largest nuclear plant may also weigh on market sentiment. The negative trends on SGX Nifty also indicated a gap-down opening for the domestic bourses, with SGX Nifty futures trading 206 points, or 1.25%, lower at 16,305 on the Singapore Stock Exchange at 8:20 AM.

On Wednesday, the domestic bourses ended lower for the second straight session, dragged by a record rally in crude prices and sustained selling by foreign investors. The benchmark indices opened higher following firm cues from global peers but soon slipped into negative terrain as investors rolled over their positions due to weekly F&O expiry. The 30-share Sensex ended 366 points or 0.66% lower at 55,103, and the Nifty50 index settled at 16,498, down 108 points or 0.65%. UltraTech Cement, Asian Paints, Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, Maruti Suzuki India, and Hindustan Unilever Ltd. (HUL) were among top losers on the BSE Sensex pack. Among sectors, rate-sensitive auto and bank space declined the most for the second straight session amid rate hike fears, while power and oil&gas indices were among the biggest gainers.

Stocks to focus

Future Retail: Amid ongoing legal battle with e-commerce major Amazon, the Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned hearing on the US e-commerce major’s plea by 10 days for exploring the possibility of resolving the dispute through dialogue. Amazon had filed a plea in the apex court against the Delhi High Court's order staying the arbitration proceedings over Future Retail's merger deal with Reliance Retail.

Wockhardt: The pharma major has fixed issue price at ₹225 per share for its ₹748 crore rights issue. The company plans to issue 3.33 crore fully paid-up equity shares worth over ₹748 crore, which will open for subscription between March 15-22.

Vodafone Idea: The board of telecom major on Thursday approved proposal to raise funds up to ₹14,500 crore through various means. The capital raise includes Rs 4,500 crore from promoter entities by issuing 3.38 billion equity shares to them at issue price of Rs 13.30 per share on preferential basis.

Indian Oil Corp: The state-run oil marketing company will supply 12-13 fuel cargoes to Sri Lanka to mitigate energy crisis in the island nation. The firm will supply gasoil, gasoline and jet fuel to Sri Lanka over the next 4-5 months.

Lupin: The drug maker has received nod from the U.S. health regulator to market Efinaconazole topical solution in the American market. The generic version of Bausch Health Americas' Jublia topical solution is used to treat fungal toenail infections.

UPL: The agro chemical company has announced to offload 49.98% equity stake in its non-operational subsidiary firm Agri Net Solutions Ltd (ANSL) to promotor group entity Nerka Chemicals for ₹1.75 crore.

Tata Elxsi: Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics Corp has proposed to set up a design centre with the Tata Group company to jointly develop electric vehicle (EV) technology.

Eveready Industries: Aditya Khaitan and Amritanshu Khaitan have stepped down from the board as non-executive director and chairman and as managing director of the company after the Burman family made an open offer to takeover India’s largest dry cell battery maker.

PTC India Financial Services (PFS): Market regulator SEBI has barred the company to hold a board meeting without independent directors, citing concerns about the company’s report on actions taken on corporate governance and compliances. This is the second time the regulator has denied the exemption to PFS.

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

Wall Street fall as Ukraine crisis raises inflation concerns

In the overnight trade, all the three major U.S. indices ended lower amid concern that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will add inflationary pressure to the world’s largest economy. In a testimony to the United States House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that the Ukraine crisis will disrupt supply chain, which has been a key driver of inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3%, the S&P 500 shed 0.5%, and the Nasdaq Composite ended 1.6% lower.

Asian stocks fall sharply in early trade

Shares in the Asia-Pacific region plummeted and oil prices rose in early deals on Friday as the war in Ukraine and higher commodity prices dented market sentiments.

Japan’s benchmark index Nikkei 225 dived 2%, while South Korea’s KOSPI fell 1.2%, and the Straits Times Index in Singapore shed 0.35%.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was the worst performer in the region with a 2.2% loss, while Australia’s ASX 200 index tumbled 0.9%.

In mainland China, the Shenzhen component fell 0.8%, while the Shanghai composite dropped 0.5% in early deals.

Brent crude retreats from record high

The oil prices continued to trade higher in early deals on Friday, albeit it retreated from record high touched in the previous session amid hopes the U.S. and Iran will agree soon to a nuclear deal that would boost crude supply. Brent crude futures topped $118 a barrel on Thursday, the highest since August 2013, as sanctions on Russian sparked supply concerns. Even the International Energy Agency (IEA) move to release 60 million barrels of crude from their reserves failed to ease traders’ concerns about supply disruptions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

During the early Asian trading hours on Friday, the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 1.85% to $109.58 a barrel, while the Brent oil futures climbed 1.74% to $112.34 per barrel.

FIIs continues funds outflow, DIIs remain buyers

Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) remained net sellers in the Indian equity market on March 3, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) were net buyers. As per the data available on the NSE, FIIs sold shares worth ₹6,644.65 crore, while DIIs net purchased shares worth ₹4,799.24 crore.

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