The BSE benchmark Sensex today plummeted by 316.55 points to close at a three-month low of 19,015.14 as the Railway budget dampened the market sentiment amid particularly weak global cues.

The Sensex, at one point of time, fell below the 19,000 level for the first time since November 29, as the Government announced a hike in rail freights, particularly commodities, raising fears of a rise in inflation.

Similarly, the broad-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty dipped below the 5,800 level and closed 93.40 points lower at 5,761.35 led by refinery, auto and capital goods.

The Union budget and monthly expiry in the derivatives segment on Thursday were other weakening factors, brokers said.

Besides a weak Asian trend and lower opening in Europe on concern Italy’s elections may reignite Europe’s debt crisis, further influenced the trading sentiment, they added.

The Railway Ministry today hiked the basic freight charges of grains, pulses and groundnut oil by nearly six per cent, a move that will lead to increase in prices of food items.

Stocks of rail associated companies such as Kalindi Rail Nirman, Hind Rectifiers, Kernex Microsystem, Titagarh Wagons and Taxmaco suffered the most by losing up to nearly 12 per cent.

Refinery stocks led by Reliance Industries, which mostly use rail transport to move their products was another weak spot. Market heavy Reliance Industries dropped 3.51 per cent to Rs 823.95, as the oil and gas sector index plunged 3.07 per cent to 8,689.98.

Auto sector index was second worst performer by losing 2.76 per cent to 10,487.67 as Tata Motors, Maruti Suzuki and Manindra and Mahindra dropped as freight hike might cut their revenues.

In 30-BSE index components, 25 stocks declined while five stocks such as Infosys, Bharti Airtel, Hindustan Unilever, Tata Consultancy and NTPC bucked the trend by ending higher.

More In: Markets | Business | News