The BSE benchmark Sensex today ended just 18 points higher at 16,880.51 as investors remained cautious ahead of Thursday’s inflation numbers that could prompt Reserve Bank to lower lending rates on June 18.

After gaining 195 points yesterday on rate cut cut hopes, the index opened marginally higher on mixed global cues.

The stock markets were in a consolidation mode and touched a day’s high of 16,944.11, before settling at 16,880.51. This represented a gain of 17.71 points or 0.11 per cent.

After dismal IIP numbers, brokers said May inflation due to be released tomorrow kept markets volatile as the numbers are expected to provide further direction to RBI to cut rates.

Out of the 30-share Sensex, 18 stocks including Maruti (3.38 pc), Sterlite (2.21 pc) and NTPC (2.16 pc) ended lower while 12 scrips including Hindustan Unilever (3.03 pc), ONGC (2.83 pc) and L&T (2.6 pc) rose.

“Ahead of the important May inflation data tomorrow and RBI’s policy next week, stocks ended on a flat note,” said Shanu Goel, Senior Research Analyst, Bonanza Portfolio.

Auto stocks were down, led by Maruti Suzuki which lost 3.38 per cent to Rs 1,107.50 and Tata Motors which shed 2.10 per cent to Rs 237.85 following reports that the government might impose an additional tax on diesel vehicles.

The BSE Capital Goods sector index gained 1.58 per cent to 9,651.65 points, followed by BSE-FMCG sector that rose 1.06 per cent to 4,779.02 points.

Similarly, the 50-share NSE Nifty inched up 5.55 points to 5,121.45 after moving between in a 50-point range.

Meanwhile, the rupee was trading at 55.64 compared to yesterday’s 55.80 at close.

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