By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

THE MAIN INDEX closed lower on Monday as most investors opted to sell due to fears amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) slid 35.39 points or 0.74% to 4,743.37 yesterday, as the broader all shares index fell 21.63 points or 0.73% to 2,927.02.

“We saw heavy selling at the open which has been the trend since the beginning of the month. The lack of buying at the open drove prices much lower which allowed more bargain hunting,” AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. Research Head Christopher John Mangun said in an e-mail.

“Most investors are waiting on the sidelines as the House of Representatives held a hearing today on giving special powers to the executive branch to counter the negative effects of the pandemic,” he said on Monday.

Philstocks Financial, Inc. Research Associate Piper Chaucer E. Tan said the market is still holding the 4,500 initial support level as it remains volatile.

“Investors are still on the ‘risk-off’ sentiment… In the fixed income market, investors (also) opted to be liquid rather than get into it,” he said in a text message.

The tally of COVID-19 cases continues to rise all over the world. In the Philippines, the Department of Health reported 462 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of yesterday afternoon. Some 33 have been killed by the disease while 18 have recovered from it.

Regina Capital Development Corp. Head of Sales Luis A. Limlingan said the drop in local shares is also due to the anticipation of investors for an aid package in the United States.

“Local shares dropped as investors wait for Washington to agree to an economic stimulus and rescue plan to combat the giant economic blow from the coronavirus outbreak,” he said in a mobile message yesterday.

Back home, sectoral indices at the PSE were divided among gainers and losers yesterday. Mining and oil rose 152 points or 4.05% to 3,897.47; holding firms improved 41.55 points or 0.90% to 4,643.61; and services climbed 3.38 points or 0.32% to 1,041.09.

On the other hand, financials lost 59.56 points or 5.11% to 1,104.13; industrials shaved off 82.40 points or 1.36% to 5,940.25; and property went down 27.73 points or 1.12% to 2,440.60.

Value turnover stood at P5.68 billion with 413.31 million issues switching hands, down from last Friday’s P6.66 billion with 659.47 million issues.

Decliners beat advancers, 133 against 55, while 35 names ended unchanged. Net foreign selling was trimmed to P443.77 million from P654.70 million on Friday.

“We may continue to see the PSEi trade between 4,500 and 5,000 unless we see a spike in volatility,” AAA Southeast Equities’ Mr. Mangun said.

“Although almost a third of the total infected have recovered, some believe that we have not seen the worst. This uncertainty will continue to hound investors and cause a risk-off sentiment,” he added.