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Indian stocks hit new high on hopes of budget reforms

Indian stocks ended at a record high on Wednesday on hopes the newly elected government will announce reforms to revive the economy in its first budget next week.

MUMBAI: Indian stocks ended at a record high on Wednesday on hopes the newly elected government will announce reforms to revive the economy in its first budget next week.

The Bombay Stock Exchange climbed as much as 1.36 per cent to 25,864.53 points before retreating marginally to end at 25,841.21 points, its highest-ever closing level.

Wednesday's surge was the second record high touched by the Sensex in less than a month.

"This is primarily a budget expectation rally. People are hoping to see some real policy reforms in infrastructure, power and taxation," said Vikram Dhawan, director of equities at brokerage Equentis Capital.

India's economy grew 4.7 per cent last year, the second consecutive year it has come in below five per cent, with the country enduring its worst slowdown since 1985 as it is hit by high inflation, low job creation and acute power shortages.

But the Sensex has soared more than 22 per cent this year, making it one of the best performers in the region, largely thanks to the rise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose right-leaning Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory in May's general election.

Modi's government has already partially raised railway fares, automobile fuel costs and cooking gas prices to try to reduce the deficit.

These steps by the Modi government "signal a strong intention to pursue reforms", said Fitch Ratings in a note this week, raising its growth forecast to 5.5 per cent for the current financial year.

A further uptick in stocks may now depend on how the government tackles soaring food inflation spurred by a shortfall in annual rains, analysts say.

India is one of the world's top producers of rice, wheat and sugar. It relies heavily on the southwest monsoon, which sweeps the subcontinent from June to September, to water its crops.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has suggested the administration will avoid populist measures favoured by the previous Congress-led coalition.

"If you indulge in mindless populism you burden the exchequer... you convert yourself into a high-taxation society. It does not work," he said on Tuesday, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Jaitley, who will present the budget on Thursday next week, added that "bold decision-making is now possible".

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