MUMBAI: The benchmark Sensex today plummeted by 855 points in its worst crash in five and a half years as stock markets globally went into a tailspin amid speculation about probable exit of Greece from the Euro region and oil prices cracking below USD 50 per barrel mark.
The Nifty also tanked 251 points, or 3 per cent. Both the bellwether indices closed at more-than two-week lows. Panic selling sent markets on a free fall with losses across sectors, traders said, adding that investor wealth plunged by nearly Rs 3 trillion as four counters fell for one that rose.
Oil prices continued to drop, with the US benchmark contract briefly falling below USD 50 a barrel for the first time in more than five years on concerns about ample global supplies and weakening economic growth.
Oil & Gas, realty, metal, capital goods, auto, consumer durable and Banking shares took the lead in the downslide.
"Markets globally remained weak. Speculation about probable exit of Greece from the Euro region and faltering oil prices too contributed towards grim market mood," said Bonanza Portfolio Senior Vice President Rakesh Goyal.
The BSE 30-share gauge resumed with a downside gap and gradually moved southwards to break 27,000-mark to a low of 26,937.06 before concluding at 26,987.46 -- logging a steep fall of 854.86 points or 3.07 per cent. This its worst drop since 869.65-point crash on July 6, 2009.
As many as 29 out of 30 Sensex-based scrips closed in the red with the biggest loser ONGC falling 6 per cent while HUL was the lone gainer.
In tandem with overall trends, the BSE small-cap and mid-cap indices lost 2.95 per cent each respectively.
The 50-issue NSE Nifty stumbled by 251.05 points, or 3.00 per cent, to end near 8,100-level at 8,127.35.
As stock markets crashed sharply, the marketplace was rife with speculation about a 'fat finger trade' in a future contract of benchmark Nifty even as NSE officials maintained that trading was normal.
Fears mounted that an election in embattled Greece later this month could put the opposition anti-austerity party Syriza in power, jeopardizing the country's economic reforms mandated by the international financial rescue, analysts said.
Japan's Nikkei led an Asian share slump following painful losses in New York and Europe. Asian markets ended sharply lower after stocks on Wall Street declined overnight following the relentless fall in oil prices. Indices in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea fell by 0.32-0.99 per cent. However, Shanghai Composite moved up by 0.03 per cent.
European stocks were also trading lower as indices in France, Germany and the UK fell 0.24-1.13 per cent.
Meanwhile, provisional data showed that foreign portfolio investors bought shares worth net Rs 472 crore yesterday.
Major Sensex losers include ONGC (5.89 per cent), Sesa Sterlite (5.09 per cent), Tata Steel (4.88 per cent), HDFC (4.69 per cent), Reliance Industries (4.67 per cent), BHEL (4.45 per cent) and Tata Motors (4.39 per cent).
ICICI Bank (4.20 per cent), SBI (4.05 per cent), Tata Power (3.92 per cent), TCS (3.60 per cent), Axis Bank (3.54 per cent), Hero Motocorp (3.43 per cent), Larsen & Toubro (3.38 per cent), Gail (3.20 per cent) and NTPC (3.13 per cent) also logged shap losses.
"The sharp fall in markets came as a surprise and was likely driven by the weak global markets. There are concerns about the weakness in the global economy (crude prices have been falling sharply) as well as the after–effects of a potential exit of Greece from EU," said Kotak Securities, Head of Private Client Group Research, Dipen Shah.
Among the S&P BSE sectoral indices, Oil&Gas 4.17 per cent followed by Realty 3.66 per cent, Metal 3.49 per cent, Capital Goods 3.24 per cent, Power 3.13 per cent, Consumer Durables 3.09 per cent, Bankex 3.03 per cent, Auto 2.65 per cent and IT 2.53 per cent.
Total market breadth turned negative as 2,253 stocks ended with losses while 644 finished with gains and 58 ruled steady. Total turnover rose to Rs 3,139.15 crore from Rs 2,729.17 crore yesterday.