SHARES dropped on Tuesday as market sentiment remained clouded as more cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) variant originally from India were detected in the country and as foreigners continued to exit the market.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) declined by 38.84 points or 0.61% to close at 6,244.74, while the broader all shares index lost 14.02 points or 0.36% to 3,847.39.

Philstocks Financial, Inc. Senior Research Analyst Japhet Louis O. Tantiangco said COVID-19 woes weighed on investor sentiment.

“After two straight trading days of staging a last-minute comeback, the local market finally gave in completely to selling pressures… on the back of the entry of the coronavirus variant from India in the Philippines,” Mr. Tantiangco said in a Viber message.

On Saturday, the Health department said it detected 10 more cases of the B.1.617 variant first reported in India, bringing the total to 12. Four are said to be confined in a hospital, while five are isolated in a facility.

Trading volume improved, but Mr. Tantiangco noted it remained “lethargic… in comparison to the year-to-date average of P8.12 billion.”

Value turnover climbed to P6.19 billion on Tuesday with 2.63 billion shares switching hands, from the P5.02 billion seen on Monday with 2.31 shares traded.

Meanwhile, China Bank Securities Corp. Research Associate Zoren Philip A. Musngi said the main index ended lower on Tuesday “as selling from foreign funds continued.”

“Bullish investor sentiment remains elusive despite signs of recovery in corporate earnings for [the first quarter], better remittances data, continuing improvement in the domestic COVID-19 situation, and ramp up in vaccination efforts,” he added.

Most sectoral indices closed in the red on Tuesday except for services, which improved by 23.03 points or 1.59% to 1,464.15, and mining and oil which gained 88.28 points or 0.97% to end at 9,183.81.

Meanwhile, property went down by 40.95 points or 1.34% to 3,013.77; financials decreased by 15.61 points or 1.11% to finish at 1,379.58; industrials lost 94 points or 1.09% to 8,479.98; and holding firms dropped by 37.49 points or 0.59% to 6,224.77.

Decliners beat advancers, 139 against 70, while 50 names closed unchanged. Net foreign selling increased to P549.72 million on Tuesday from the P354.07 million logged on Monday.

Mr. Musngi said the 6,500 support level for the index remains strong, while AB Capital Securities, Inc. Junior Equity Analyst Lance U. Soledad said the 6,200 and 6,000 support levels may be retested “if bargain hunting fails to lift the market.”

“We expect the weakness in the market to persist amid the lack of buying catalyst to reverse the negative sentiment brought about by the string of negative news that has been coming out such as the growth downgrades and MSCI rebalancing,” Mr. Soledad said in a separate Viber message. — K.C.G. Valmonte