After opening in the positive zone, the BSE index shuttled between 20,358.19 and 20,079.82 on alternate bouts of buying and selling. It closed at 20,310.74, a gain of 49.71 points, or 0.25 percent.

In 30-scrip barometer, 16 stocks gained while 14 ended down. Tata Power and Coal India logged best gains while BHEL and Cipla were the biggest laggards.

Sensex has gained 101.48 points in 3 days. Before that, it shed 1,100 points as the index fell for six days in seven.

Thursday's closing value is the highest for Sensex since 20,513.85 on January 31.

Brokers said the market managed to end higher on fresh buying in FMCG sector after index-linked ITC and Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) spurted on bargain-hunting.

The FMCG index gained the most among BSE sectoral indices by rising 1.36 percent as HUL (2.90 percent) and ITC (1.77 percent) jumped.

The 50-share NSE index Nifty rose by 13.90 points, or 0.23 percent, to end at 6,036.30, after touching a low of 5,965.40. This was also the barometer's highest close since 6,089.50 on January 31.

Traders said a firming Asian trend and higher opening in Europe as investors weighed earnings and US data showing service-industries growth, further influenced the sentiment.

The upsurge, however, was capped as stocks of banking and information technologies sectors surrendered intra-day gains on profit-booking. ICICI Bank, State Bank of India, Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services lost in the one per cent range.

Besides FMCG, consumer durable sector index was second best BSE sectoral performer as it gained one per cent. On the other hand, banking sector index lost 0.23 percent and IT sector index edged 0.17 percent lower. The worst performer, however, was Realty that slumped 1.57 percent.

(Agencies)

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