Strong rallies in the shares of insurer Bao Viet Holdings (BVH), Masan Group (MSN) and PetroVietnam Finance (PVF) helped lift the VN-Index despite strong sell-off pressures in on Jan. 18's session on the HCM City Stock Exchange. The Index gained 0.46 percent to end the session at 497.43 points, still shy of the psychological barrier of 500.

The modest market strength this week, reliant on a few solid blue chips attractive to foreign investors, wouldn't be enough to boost the market over the 500-point hump, said Le Cong, an analyst with financial services provider Stoxplus.

Foreign investors accounted for nearly 87 percent of the total volume in BVH shares on Jan. 18, as well as over 60.3 percent of MSN shares, he noted. Overall, foreigners picked up a net of about 2.7 million shares on the HCM City market on Jan. 18.

On the other hand, Cong said, "local investors prefer a rest during January and February, after a tough investing year."

Concerns over inflation and interest rates were also bothering domestic investors, holding the Index below 500 despite five straight days of advances, he said. The overall volume of trades during those five days had remained modest at around 1 trillion VND (47.6 million USD) per day, with the volume of Jan. 18's trades reaching 40.8 million shares.

Nguyen Hoang Hai, head of the brokerage department for a Hanoi-based fund management company, said that some listed companies had released unexpected fourth-quarter earnings, fuelling a strong counter-wave of profit-taking among local investors during the Jan. 18 session. This drove losers to outnumber gainers on the HCM City bourse by 152-66.

On the Hanoi Stock Exchange on Jan. 18, without a comparable boost from foreign investors, the HNX-Index retreated by 1.43 percent to end the session at 107.46 points.

PetroVietnam Insurance (PVI) and Tien Phong Plastics (NTP) were the only blue chips to gain ground, with PVI picking up 3.45 percent in value and NTP a more modest 0.45 percent on the day.

The volume of trades on the northern bourse dropped from 34.4 million on Jan. 17 to 29.2 million shares on Jan. 18, worth a total of 557 billion VND (26.5 million USD)./.