Buoyed by heavy foreign investor interest in a few key stocks, the VN-Index gained 1.2 percent on Jan. 20 to close the day's session on the HCM Stock Exchange at 511.98 points – even as declining shares outnumbered gainers by 129-99.

Bao Viet Holdings (BVH) and Masan Group (MSN), both having a large impact on movements of the VN-Index, each rose to their ceiling prices on the day, with foreign investors accounting for over 80 percent of the volume in both stocks.

Foreign investment funds might be playing a shell game of stepping up buying of certain blue chips that have a heavy influence on the VN-Index, thereby increasing the net value of their entire portfolios, said an expert familiar with the industry who asked to remain anonymous.

Foreign investors bought a net of 2.3 million shares on the HCM exchange on Jan. 20, accounting for 18.2 percent of the total market volume of 41.2 million shares. The value of trades remained modest at 1.1 trillion VND (52.4 million USD).

On the Hanoi Stock Exchange, the HNX-Index fell for a third day, closing off by 0.23 percent to 107.02 points. The volume of trades continued low at 21.6 million shares, worth a total of 394.9 billion VND (18.8 million USD).

Tien Phong Plastics (NTP) and Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) were the only leading shares by capitalisation to post gains on the day.

On the day, the Hanoi Statistics Office announced January inflation data for Hanoi , showing a 1.68 per-cent increase over December. HCM City inflation data for January showed a more modest 1.01 percent increase./.