SHARES inched up on Wednesday on last-minute buying as the country reported a slightly lower daily number of new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections, which slightly eased investor concerns.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) climbed by 41.49 points or 0.61% to close at 6,808.32 on Wednesday, while the all shares index moved up by 3.4 points or 0.08% to finish at 4,078.35.

“The PSEi recovered further as buyers picked up shares of companies that took a beating at the beginning of the week. The sentiment improved slightly, as panic selling was calmed by the fact that new COVID-19 cases came in below the 3,000 mark [on Tuesday],” AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. Research Head Christopher John J. Mangun said in an e-mail.

“The slow recovery in employment for the month of January, emphasized the importance of not returning to a hard lockdown,” Mr. Mangun added.

Preliminary results of Philippine Statistics Authority’s January 2021 round of the Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed around 3.953 million unemployed Filipinos, up from 3.813 million in October 2020 and 2.391 million in January 2020.

This put the unemployment rate at 8.7% in January, unchanged from October 2020 but higher than 5.3% in January 2020.

“The market closed at its intraday high… only due to last-minute buying. Negative sentiment still seems to be more prevalent amid the unchanged unemployment rate, and the spike in inflation and daily COVID-19 cases,” AB Capital Securities, Inc. Junior Equity Analyst Lance U. Soledad said in a Viber message.

Philstocks Financial, Inc. Research Associate Claire T. Alviar meanwhile said the market gained to follow Wall Street’s lead.

“The US markets climbed on the back of the decline of US bond yields as well as the positive sentiment towards the $1.9-trillion fiscal stimulus plan, providing positive sentiment in the local market,” Ms. Alviar said in a Viber message.

Most sectoral indices went up on Wednesday except for financials, which declined by 15.18 points or 1.05% to 1,422.69 and mining and oil, which dropped 88.64 points or 1.03% to 8,515.69.

Meanwhile, holding firms rose by 96.24 points or 1.37% to close at 7,082.36; services increased by 13.04 points or 0.89% to 1,471.98; property went up by 11.56 points or 0.34% to 3,374.64; and industrials improved by 19.37 points or 0.22% to 8,675.99.

Value turnover went down to P11.07 billion on Wednesday with 9.14 billion shares switching hands, from the P19.02 billion seen on Tuesday.

Decliners outnumbered advances, 155 against 72, while 34 names closed unchanged.

Net foreign selling slowed to P78.87 million on Wednesday from P10.55 billion on Tuesday.

“For this week, we expect the index to trade between 6,700 and 6,900 on lack of positive catalyst, as vaccine rollout optimism seems to be waning,” AB Capital Securities’ Mr. Soledad said. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte