Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE)
Indian pedestrians watch as a digital broadcast presents the rolling share price information and national election results news coverage on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai on May 16, 2014.PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/Getty Images

Indian shares began the year on a negative note on Tuesday as investors stayed away from making bets, with the corporate earnings season slated to begin next week.

With trade optimism bringing some cheer, Indian markets posted their third consecutive annual gain in 2018 and outperformed most Asian indexes, according to Refinitiv data. However, global stock indexes ended in the red for the year.

This year is expected to be a crucial one for India as it heads into a general election that must be held by May.

"We're looking at a flattish market with a target of 10,400 - 11,000 for Nifty in the first six months. There is uncertainty with respect to global liquidity," said Dhananjay Sinha, Head-Institutional Research, Economist and Strategy at Emkay Global Financial Services.

The Reserve Bank of India has given a fair and positive view of its financial stability report, he added.

The central bank said on Monday the proportion of commercial lenders' non-performing assets may fall slightly to 10.3 percent by March, thanks to measures including the creation of bankruptcy code.

The broader NSE Nifty was down 0.28 percent at 10,832.50 as of 0524 GMT.

The benchmark BSE Sensex was 0.26 percent lower at 35,973.16.

Financial and consumer stocks weighed on the indexes. HDFC Bank Ltd and ITC Ltd were among the top drags, down about 0.5 percent each.

Metal stocks, which were hit through 2018 on trade war concerns, also fell. Hindalco Industries Ltd and JSW Steel Ltd were down about 1 percent each.

Sales data for automakers such as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd disappointed investors, sending the stock down 0.5 percent.