Caution ruled ahead of the derivatives expiry tomorrow. Investors are closely tracking the Railway Budget, which will be presented tomorrow, while the Economic Survey is slated for Friday. The Union Budget for 2016-17 is set to be unveiled on Monday.

Overseas cues were decidedly negative as Asian shares fell, mirroring the weakness in crude oil prices, which tumbled after major producer Saudi Arabia effectively said no to any production cut in the near future, aggravating oversupply worries.

The weak European and US economic data only fed to the nervousness. The 30-share Sensex started the session on a lower note and plunged 321.25 points, or 1.37 per cent, to 23,088.93 at the close -- a nearly two-week low. The gauged had lost 379 in yesterday's trade.

The 50-share NSE Nifty failed to hold on to the psychological 7,100-mark as it tripped 90.85 points, or 1.28 per cent, to end at 7,018.70.

As many as 23 Sensex stocks closed with losses, including BHEL, NTPC, Tata Motors, HDFC and ICICI Bank. However, Bharti Airtel, M&M, Asian Paints, Hindustan Unilever, Axis Bank, RIL and Infosys managed to register gains.

The metal index bled the most, down 2.62 percent, followed by healthcare (1.72 percent), capital goods (1.67 percent), banking (1.36 percent) and PSU (1.29 percent).

The broader markets cut a sorry figure too, with BSE small-cap falling 1.15 percent and mid-cap shedding 0.79 percent.  Foreign portfolio investors (FPI) sold shares worth a net Rs 289.66 crore yesterday, according to provisional data.

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