* Indexes down by about 8% from their all-time highs
* Hotels, airline stocks fall on travel restrictions worry
* Pharma stocks up on expectations COVID-19 drugs demand
BENGALURU, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Indian shares sank nearly 3%
on Friday as fears that a new, possibly vaccine-resistant
coronavirus variant could wreak more economic damage prompted
investors to dump equities globally.
The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index ended down 2.91% at
17,026.45 and the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex closed 2.87%
lower at 57,107.15, both marking their biggest daily drops since
The losses also pushed the Nifty 50 to its worst weekly
performance since late January, with both the main indexes
losing over 4% this week to move further away from a record high
struck in October.
Markets globally were lower after scientists said the new
variant detected in South Africa has an unusual combination of
mutations, may be able to evade immune responses and could be
more transmissible. That led India to tighten COVID-19 testing
"Nervousness on the new variant and expectations of the U.S.
increasing the pace of tapering have led to recent market
weakness," Amit Gupta, fund manager at PMS at ICICI Securities,
said in a note.
The travel and leisure index plunged by their most since
2020, with shares of InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, the
operator of India's biggest airline IndiGo, falling 8.86%.
Hotel operators such as Indian Hotels Co and Lemon
Tree were down 11.43% and 8.61%, respectively.
Metals, auto, banks, energy and realty sub-indexes were down
between 3.6% and 6.2%.
Pharmaceutical stocks helped cap some losses on the Nifty
on expectations that demand for COVID-19 drugs would increase
Cipla rose as much as 8.5%, its biggest percentage
gain in over 14 months. Pfizer's India unit and Dr
Reddy's Laboratories were the other major pharma
gainers, ending the session 4.97% and 3.47% higher.
The World Health Organization will meet on Friday to
evaluate if the new variant is a "variant of concern."
(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander and Chris Thomas in Bengaluru;
editing by Uttaresh.V and Aditya Soni)