Mumbai (Agencies): The BSE benchmark Sensex snapped its two-day winning rally and lost over 441 points as worries over rising inflation and high interest rates pulled it down to over 5-month low of 18,008.15, on heavy sell-offs in realty, FMCG, IT, Banking, Capital Goods and Auto segments.

Marketmen said investor sentiment was reflected in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement today that although the economy has been on a high growth trajectory for the past few years, inflation posed a "serious threat to the growth momentum".

Besides, rising global crude oil prices due to crisis in Egypt and fears of the possible spread of the political turmoil in that region compelled operators and investors to book profits even at the current low levels.

Investors are wary that rising interest rates -- to curb inflationary pressures -- and the Middle East developments might affect bottomlines of the companies, resulting the interest rate sensitive stocks in realty, FMCG, banking and auto suffering the most.

The Bombay Stock Exchange 30-share index, Sensex, touched a high of 18,542.20 early on, but fell back sharply below 18,000 mark to a low of 17,926.98 before concluding at 18,008.15, lowest level since August 31.

Sensex was down 441.16 points or 2.39 per cent.

The NSE 50-share Nifty also tumbled by 131.00 points or 2.37 per cent to finish below 5,400-mark at over 6-month low of 5,395.75. Previously, it had settled at 5,367.60 on July 30, 2010.

Sensex fell on selling in heavyweights like RIL, ICICI Bank, ITC, Infosys Tech, L&T, HDFC, TCS, M&M, HDFC Bank, Hindalco, Bharti Airtel and Tata Power.

On the global front, there was no major trigger for the local market to take a cue from as besides Japan, most of the Asian markets were closed on friday. European stocks were trading better in their afternoon deals, ahead of the key US non-farm payroll data to be out late in the day.

However, after recent continued selling, Foreign funds bought shares worth a net Rs 538.71 crore on Thursday as per the provisional data from the stock exchanges.

Selling was so strong that all 13 sectoral indices closed down between 3.37 per cent and 1.20 per cent. Besides, 29 out of 30 index-based counters finished with losses, as only Bajaj
Auto settled in the green.

BSE-Realty index plunged 3.37 per cent, BSE-FMCG by 3.08 pc, BSE-Teck - 2.28 pc, BSE-IT - 2.26 pc, bankex - 2.23 pc, BSE-CG 2.17 pc and BSE-Auto by 2.10 per cent.

M&M was the top loser with a fall of 5.31 per cent, followed by ITC (4.23 pc), REL Infra (3.76 pc), Tata Power (3.63 pc), Hindalco (3.58 pc), L&T (3.51 pc), ICICI Bank (3.27 pc), HDFC (3.26 pc), TCS (3.10 pc), NTPC (2.10 pc), Maruti Suzuki (2.92 pc), RCom (2.80 pc), DLF (2.77 pc), Jaira Ind (2.62 pc) and RIL (2.54 pc).

The total market breadth turned sharply negative as 2,003 stocks ended in losses, while 873 finished with gains on the BSE. The total turnover was up at Rs 3,686.41 crore from Rs 3,544.43 crore on Thursday.