By Denise A. Valdez, Senior Reporter

THE MAIN INDEX returned to the 5,900 level on Monday due to the absence of a strong catalyst, which caused a sell-off in more than half of blue-chip stocks.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) lost 61.82 points or 1.02% to close at 5,943.58, while the broader all shares index dropped 32.49 points or 0.9% to end at 3,540.57.

“The local bourse declined due to lack of strong fresh leads in the market that have triggered net foreign selling worth P1.04 billion, dragging the market below the 6,000 psychological line,” Philstocks Financial, Inc. Research Associate Claire T. Alviar said in a text message.

Investors remained trading with local coronavirus cases in mind as infections grew to 189,601 as of Sunday. Some 2,378 new cases were reported, of which 1,022 came from Metro Manila.

Across the world, 23.42 million coronavirus cases have been tallied by Johns Hopkins University, of which 808,681 have died.

At the close of the market, 17 out of 30 PSEi members declined, led by SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (-3.23%), San Miguel Corp. (-2.91%) and Ayala Land, Inc. (-2.39%).

Ten PSEi members increased, among which are PLDT, Inc. (2.34%), Universal Robina Corp. (2.04%) and Ayala Corp. (1.78%).

“Only a handful of PSEi issues ended with gains today, particularly sectors that have remained strong despite the pandemic,” AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. Research Head Christopher John Mangun said in an e-mail on Monday.

Half of sectoral indices ended in green territory: mining and oil rose 90.98 points or 1.60% to 5,773.89; industrials gained 65.52 points or 0.84% to 7,857.78; and services climbed 3.33 points or 0.23% to 1,453.60.

On the other hand, property slid 72.95 points or 2.52% to 2,811.68; holding firms fell 77.33 points or 1.23% to 6,169.72; and financials shed 9.16 points or 0.81% to 1,121.78 at the end of session.

“The property index took the biggest hit again today as property heavyweights, (Ayala Land) and (SM Prime) continued lower, wiping out all of its gains in June and July as mall revenues continue to drop as the masses avoid crowded areas,” Mr. Mangun said.

Value turnover on Monday stood at P10.27 billion with 2.28 billion issues switching hands, up from the last session’s P4.05 billion with 1.5 billion issues.

Decliners outnumbered advancers, 112 against 72, while 59 names ended unchanged.

Meanwhile, Asian shares advanced for a second straight session on Monday, underpinned by coronavirus hopes after US regulators authorized the use of blood plasma from recovered patients as a treatment option, Reuters reported.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan jumped 0.8%, edging closer to a six-month high touched last week.

Japan’s Nikkei reversed early losses to be last up 0.3%. Chinese shares rose too with the blue-chip CSI 300 index adding 0.8%. — with Reuters