STOCKS inched up on Wednesday as investors continue to gauge the government’s response to the country’s rising coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) climbed 7.75 points or 0.11% to close at 6,566.83 on Wednesday, while the broader all shares index went up by 10.63 points or 0.26% to 3,964.78.

“We think the market has not yet fully priced in the possibility of a wider reimposition of stricter quarantine measures,” China Bank Securities Corp. Research Associate Jason T. Escartin said via e-mail. “The PSEi huddled in the 6,500-6,600 support zone, a significant level previously seen right before the government imposed its first round of lockdowns in mid-March 2020.”

“The market held its ground again [on Wednesday] and ended flat on lighter selling pressure,” AAA Southeast Equities, Inc. Research Head Christopher John J. Mangun said in a separate e-mail.

“There is still a lot of concern regarding the possibility of a hard lockdown amid soaring COVID-19 cases. The government just restricted the entry of foreigners and has limited the entry of Filipinos to just 1,500 per day,” he added.

The new travel restrictions were implemented due to the rising number of daily COVID-19 infections in the country. COVID-19 cases climbed to over 635,000 on Wednesday after the Health department reported 4,387 new infections.

All sectoral indices closed in the green except for property, which fell by 17.09 points or 0.52% to finish at 3,262.47.

Meanwhile, services increased by 10.02 points or 0.7% to end at 1,435.23; financials improved by 5.93 points or 0.42% to 1,404.28; industrials went up by 26.52 points or 0.31% to 8,527.89; holding firms rose by 10.8 points or 0.16% to 6,698.36; and mining and oil climbed by 13.32 points or 0.15% to close at 8,484.85.

Value turnover went up to P6.85 billion on Wednesday with 4.62 billion shares switching hands, up from the P5.9 billion with 3.3 billion shares traded on Tuesday.

Advancers outnumbered decliners, 122 versus 94, while 47 names closed unchanged.

Net foreign selling inched down to P256.96 million on Wednesday from the P298.84 million seen on Tuesday.

Mr. Mangun said he expects the PSEi to finish between 6,500 and 6,600 until the end of the week.

“The sideways trend is a sign of uncertainty, the market [can’t decide] whether it [wants] to go higher or lower, hence the sideways trend,” he added.

“In our view, price action in the next few days would hinge on the government’s response to rising case counts,” China Bank Securities’ Mr. Escartin said.

“At the worst case, a blanket lockdown may be imposed, which may cause the PSEi to break below its 6,500 support level, with 6,200 as the next support. At best, the market may continue trading between 6,500 to 6,710 as uncertainty remains high over the outcome of current area-specific lockdowns and restrictions,” he said. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte