THE MAIN INDEX closed nearly flat on Thursday, trading with a negative bias as investor sentiment remained tepid due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) slid 9.78 points or 0.16% to close at 5,921.55, while the broader all shares index picked up by just 0.17 point to end at 3,544.41.

Investors were trading conservatively during Thursday’s trading as COVID-19 uncertainties continued to weigh on the outlook for the economy, AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. Research Head Christopher John Mangun said in an e-mail.

“This is a trend that we are seeing worldwide. The difference is that markets abroad are at multi-year and all-time highs, recovering almost all losses for the year, while our market still reflects losses caused by pandemic,” Mr. Mangun said.

“Our market has tracked the economy more realistically compared to markets abroad,” he added.

US markets continued their uptrend at the close of Wednesday’s session: the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indices all increased 0.30%, 1.02% and 1.73%, respectively.

In Asia, most markets were going up in the past days before economic data tempered their climb on Thursday.

These developments came despite global COVID-19 cases still rising every day, hitting 24.18 million based on data from Johns Hopkins University. The Philippines reported 5,277 new cases on Wednesday, reaching a total of 202,361.

Besides growing COVID-19 cases, the “perceived notion of a lack of stimulus from the government” was another factor that brought the PSEi down, Mr. Mangun said.

Eleven of 30 PSEi members ended Wednesday’s trading in red territory, led by Manila Electric Co. (-3.19%), Bloomberry Resorts Corp. (-2.91%), Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (-2.49%), LT Group, Inc. (-1.78%) and SM Investments Corp. (-1.58%).

“Market was slightly down despite the positive market breadth after it was dragged lower by the SM block,” Diversified Securities, Inc. Equity Trader Aniceto K. Pangan said in a text message.

Four of six sectoral indices also closed the session with losses. Holding firms went down 37.81 points or 0.61% to 6,148.30; services shed 6.05 points or 0.41% to 1,464.72; property trimmed 9.04 points or 0.32% to 2,758.96; and industrials slid 20.80 points or 0.26% to 7,832.04

Gainers were mining and oil, which rose 236.65 points or 4.06% to 6,054.86; and financials, which went up 18.89 points or 1.69% to 1,132.42 at the end of trading.

Value turnover on Thursday stood at P17.46 billion with 5.08 billion issues switching hands, up from P4.91 billion with 1.22 billion issues during the previous day.

Advancers outnumbered decliners, 98 against 86, while 57 names ended unchanged.

Net foreign selling continued for the eighth straight day and ballooned to P1.11 billion on Thursday from P614.1 million on Wednesday. — Denise A. Valdez