By Krista A.M. Montealegre,
National Correspondent

STOCKS eked out gains in lackluster trading on Thursday, as investors search for new catalysts to sustain the benchmark index’s rally beyond the 8,000 mark.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) swung between gains and losses before settling at 8,004.93 at the close of the session, up 6.18 points or 0.07% from its previous close.

The all-shares index inched up 3.36 points or 0.07% to end at 4,739.80.

“The market is still looking for fresh leads, but it is good that we are hovering at the 8,000 area for the index,” PNB Securities, Inc. President Manuel Antonio G. Lisbona said in a text message.

The PSEi has been trading around the 8,000 level for some time now, but has failed to make a run past its all-time high of 8,127.48.

“You have most fund managers on vacation. The institutional side is on hold and activity is coming from the retail side. The market itself is thin so it won’t be able to sustain a rally,” Rens V. Cruz II, analyst at Regina Capital Development Corp., said in a phone interview.

Value turnover eased to P4.64 billion after 1.28 billion shares changed hands, from P5.7 billion in the prior session.

Possible delays in the approval of the proposed comprehensive tax reform program in Congress, a relatively disappointing second-quarter earnings season and a gross domestic product data that failed to live up to the government’s pronouncements are causing the negative sentiment in the market, Mr. Cruz said.

Add to that the overnight weakness in Wall Street after US President Donald J. Trump, in a speech late Tuesday in Arizona, warned of a government shutdown to secure funding for a wall between the US and Mexico ahead of a September deadline to raise the debt ceiling.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 87.80 points or 0.40% to 21,812.09; the S&P 500 lost 8.44 points or 0.34% to 2,444.07; and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 19.07 points or 0.30% to 6,278.41.

Back home, the mining and oil counter rose 62.5 points or 0.48% to end at 13,016.08; services climbed 7.86 points or 0.45% to 1,719.22; and holding firms jumped 32.57 points or 0.41% to 7,846.20.

Meanwhile, the other three counters finished in the red. Property lost 9.14 points or 0.24% to 3,764.71; financials shed 3.37 points or 0.16% to 1,997.15; and industrials slid 2.53 points or 0.02% to 11,137.07.

Advancers beat decliners, 98 to 83, while 62 issues closed flat.

Foreign investors returned to the market, registering net purchases of P49.97 million to mark the 11th time in the last 12 sessions that it finished in net buying territory.

“We are expecting the same price action in the coming trading sessions particularly next week, as there will only be three trading days,” PNB Securities’ Mr. Lisbona said.