BENGALURU: Indian shares tumbled as much as 2.5% on Friday, with the blue-chip Nifty 50 set for its worst week since late-January, as investors dumped risky assets after a new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant was identified in South Africa.
The blue-chip NSE Nifty 50 index trimmed some losses to trade 2.02% lower at 17,183.60 by 0602 GMT, while the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex was down 2.02% at 57,614.16.
Both the indexes hit their lowest levels since Sept. 2 on Friday, while on a weekly basis, they are down more than 3% each.
Investors were spooked by concerns about fresh outbreaks and the impact on the global economy after scientists said the new variant may be able to evade immune responses.
Some nations moved swiftly to impose travel curbs from the nation, while India issued an advisory to all states to rigorously test and screen international travellers from South Africa and other "at risk" countries.
The developments knocked over broader markets in Asia, which saw their sharpest drop in three months.
"There is a fear of this new variant spreading to other countries which might again derail the global economy," said Hemang Jani, equity strategist at Motilal Oswal Financial Services.
Autos, banks, metals, energy and realty stocks were the worst hit, with the sub-indexes down between 3% and 5%.
The Nifty Pharma Index gained 2.50%. Cipla rose as much as 6.4% to a more than 7-month high, while Pfizer climbed to 5.7%.
Looking ahead, India's economic growth data is in focus, with a Reuters poll projecting that the country's economic recovery had strengthened in the previous quarter after pandemic-related mobility restrictions had eased.