Mumbai: The BSE benchmark Sensex on Thursday closed flat, just 22 points up in Thursday's volatile trade, as three blasts in the country's financial hub on Wednesday made investors nervous, and overall inflation rose below the market expectations.

The Bombay Stock Exchange index Sensex swung in a 350- range of 18,803.05-18,449.23 before ending with moderate gains of 22.18 points at 18,618.20.

After a lower start following reports of triple bomb blast in Mumbai on Wednesday evening, the 30-share index surged as Home Minister P Chidambaram said terrorist attacks' aim was not to unnerve the business centres, but to hit at congested and populated areas.

Besides, overall inflation-- measured in whole price inflation index-- climbed 9.44 per cent in June from 9.06 per cent in May,  much below market expectations and helped the market to wipe-off the day's earlier losses.

Yet, the stocks took a plunge at the fag end on weak Asian trend and lower opening in Europe, erasing most of the gains.

Broad-based National Stock Exchange index Nifty ended 14.35 points higher at 5,599.80 after moving in 5,653.95 and 5,541.70 points range.

Banking stocks advanced on hopes that a slower rise in a monthly inflation may reduce the prospects of a further hike in interest rates. Largest lender State Bank jumped 1.39 percent, largest private lender ICICI Bank 1.40 per cent, HDFC by 1.01 per cent, and HDFC Bank by 0.55 per cent to Rs 505.90.

Banking index rose 1.04 per cent to 12,879.34.

(Agencies)