The Union rail budget failed to hit the right note for the market as selling momentum continued for the third straight day, with the benchmark Sensex on Thursday plunging nearly 113 points to close below the key 23,000-mark.
Besides, winding up of bets on the last session of the expiry in February derivatives contracts, coupled with weakness in global markets, made investors nervous.
The rupee fell 20 paise to 68.77 (intra-day) against the dollar, which added to the selling pressure.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today proposed increasing capital outlay for the Railways, the world's fourth-largest rail network, by 21 per cent to Rs 1.21 lakh crore.
The 30-share barometer started higher, but lost its way soon after the railway budget. It closed at 22,976, down 112.93 points, or 0.49 per cent. The gauge had lost almost 700
points in the previous two sessions.
The NSE Nifty was on the same boat as it went below the crucial 7,000-level by falling 48.10 points, or 0.69 per cent to close at 6,970.60. Intra-day, it shuttled between 7,034.20 and 6,961.40.
Shares of companies linked to the railway sector performed below par as they came under strain. Kalindee Rail Nirman was down as much as 9.26 per cent, and so were Texmaco Rail (8.78 per cent), Titagarh Wagons (8.40 per cent), Simplex Castings (8.16 per cent), Stone India (5.74 per cent) and BEML (4.06 per cent).
Others that lost included SBI, Tata Motors, GAIL, L&T, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Maruti.
Of the 30 constituents in the Sensex, 21 ended lower and 9 higher.
ONGC, Sun Pharma, HDFC, Coal India and Cipla were among the gainers.
Power, realty, capital goods, banking, auto, IT, technology, oil and gas and consumer durables fell up to 2.19 per cent.
Mid-cap and small-cap indices, in line with the broader trend, retreated by 1.14 per cent and 0.91 per cent, respectively.
Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) continued to sell shares worth net Rs 730.99 crore yesterday, provisional data showed.
Asian equities threw up a mixed picture at the close while European indices climbed in opening trade.