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Indian shares end flat, bullish services data help erase losses

A broker trades on his computer terminal at a stock brokerage firm in Mumbai

BENGALURU (Reuters) -Indian shares closed largely flat on Monday as upbeat November services activity data helped reverse earlier losses in the final minutes of a volatile session.

The S&P BSE Sensex closed 0.05% lower at 62,834.60. The NSE Nifty 50 index settled 0.03% higher at 18,701.05.

Both the indexes fell as much as 0.6% earlier in the session.

"Positive services PMI data could have triggered the recovery from lower levels in intraday trade," said Shrikant Chouhan, Head of Equity Research (Retail) at Kotak Services.

India's services activity grew at its quickest pace in three months in November on strong demand, lifting business confidence to its highest since January 2015, a business survey showed.

But the survey also showed elevated input prices forced firms to raise prices at the sharpest rate in about five-and-a-half years, which could further pressure overall inflation.

The reading comes as the Reserve Bank of India starts its three-day meeting, with the central bank widely expected to raise interest rates by a smaller 35-basis points, to 6.25%, on Wednesday, which analysts say has been mostly priced into the market.

Although inflation hit a three-month low in October, it remained above the RBI's tolerance range. Still, the signs of easing inflation domestically and in the United States, sent stocks on an eight-day rally through last Thursday, during which both indexes hit all-time highs.

Adding to the pressure on the day was 1.75% rise in oil prices, which adds to inflation worries as India is one of the largest importers of the commodity. [O/R]

Most of the major sectoral indexes were lower, with oil stocks down 0.36% and IT stocks down 0.52%.

Among the few bright spots, metal stocks gained 1.87% bolstered by expectations of strong global and domestic demand and banking stocks added 0.53%.

While the benchmarks were volatile, the small- and mid-cap stocks were higher by 0.43% and 0.25% respectively.

($1 = 81.4100 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Bharath Rajeswaran and Akansha Victor in Bengaluru; Editing by Janane Venkatraman and Eileen Soreng)