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Asia, News

Indian shares close near 4-month highs as Reliance boosts

* Nifty, Sensex close up 0.5% each

* Both indexes post third straight weekly gain

* Reliance at record closing high after Intel investment

By Chris Thomas

BENGALURU, July 3 (Reuters) – Indian shares ended at near four-month highs on Friday, boosted by Reliance Industries Ltd after Intel Corp agreed to invest in the Asian conglomerate’s digital unit, although a record spike in domestic COVID-19 cases curbed gains.

The benchmark indexes finished higher for a third consecutive session, with the NSE Nifty 50 index rising 0.53% to 10,607.35 and the S&P BSE Sensex advancing 0.5% to 36,021.42. Both indexes notched their third straight weekly gain.

Index heavyweight Reliance Industries climbed 1.6% to an all-time closing high after the investment arm of U.S. chipmaker Intel decided to pay some $255 million to buy a 0.39% stake in the digital unit, Jio Platforms.

However, business mood was dampened by reports of domestic COVID-19 cases jumping by a record 20,903 infections to 625,544, including 18,213 deaths.

“People on the ground have started realising that many people in their first degree of connection are now coming down with COVID-19, and the fear of what another lockdown will do to industries is the biggest overhanging worry for investors,” said Nikhil Kamath, co-founder and chief investment officer at stock broker Zerodha.

The Nifty and Sensex have rebounded sharply from a coronavirus-fuelled slump in March, but remain around 13% lower for the year.

Financials stocks were among the worst performers on Friday, with HDFC Bank Ltd and IndusInd Bank Ltd dropping around 1.5% each.

Global markets inched higher after data showed a brisk pickup in Chinese service sector activity in June and as U.S. nonfarm payrolls saw a better-than-expected jump.

Closer home in Mumbai, power plant equipment maker Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd soared 5.3% after India tightened scrutiny around power supply equipment imports from its neighbours, particularly China.

Telecom operator Bharti Airtel topped gains on the Nifty 50 with a 4.1% jump that took the stock to its best closing level since June 8.

JSW Steel Ltd was the worst performer, slumping 1.8% after reporting a drop in June steel production. (Reporting by Chris Thomas in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)

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