Shares increased on both of the nation's stock exchanges on Feb. 20 on renewed investor hopes that the country might be seeing a subsidence of inflationary pressures and a concomitant easing in interest rates.

High interest rates and tight credit have been seen as crippling the stock market and cramping business growth for the past two years.

But the market can increase strongly in the second and third quarters as single-digit inflation may help the central bank reduce interest rates, said Dominic Scriven, chief executive officer of Dragon Capital, which has just issued an assessment of the Vietnamese stock market.

On the HCM Stock Exchange on Feb. 20, the VN-Index leaped in value by 2.65 percent to close at 413.98 points. Advancers outnumbered decliners by a whopping 212-35 with more than 100 stocks hitting their ceiling prices. The value of trades also jumped by over 25 percent over the previous trading session to 684.9 billion VND (3.6 million USD), as trading volume reached nearly 49 million shares.

The VN-30 also leaped by 3.15 percent to 465.44 points, with trades in shares tracked by the index accounting for over half of the day's market value. Insurer Bao Viet Holdings (BVH), Vietinbank (CTG), real estate developer Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAG), steelmaker Hoa Phat (HPG), Sacombank (STB) and Vietcombank (VCB) all hit their ceiling prices. However, Hanoi-based real estate developer Vincom (VIC) was among the 35 codes to fall.

On the Hanoi Stock Exchange, the HNX-Index skyrocketed by 4 percent, closing at 64.27 points. Gainers overwhelmed losers by a margin of 273-30, while the volume of trades surged 43.8 percent over the previous session to 53.2 million shares. Value soared by 45 percent to a total of 439.6 billion VND (20.9 million USD).

With over 13 million shares exchanged, Habubank (HBB) was the most-active share nationwide, closing up by 7 percent.

The State Securities Commission will introduce extended trading hours on both the Hanoi and HCM City exchanges beginning March 5, the Sai Gon Economic Times reported on Feb. 20.-VNA