Concerns over foreign exchange rates began cooling amongst investors, which helped slowing the market falls on Feb. 17.

In HCM City , the VN-Index lost just 0.64 percent to close at 509.83 points.

Trading volume rose 20 percent against Feb. 16 with nearly 36 million shares changing hands, worth 858.9 billion VND (39.6 million USD). Foreign investors on Feb. 17 returned as net buyers in the southern market, acquiring about 3.4 million shares while selling only 2.4 million.

Trading in influential stocks such as Bao Viet Holdings (BVH), Masan Group (MSN) and software producer FPT Corp (FPT) eased off, with BVH and FPT closing unchanged, while MSN rallied by 1.1 percent.

Banking stocks performed well, with Eximbank (EIB) rising 1.3 percent and VietinBank (CTG) 2 percent. Sacombank (STB) closed unchanged.

Saigon Securities Inc (SSI) was the most active stock with 2.7 million shares changing hands.

A number of penny stocks hit their ceiling prices, such as Khang An Investment Real Estate (KAC), up 4.9 percent; Vietnam Container Shipping (VSC), up 4.7 percent; Ngo Han Co (NHW), up 4.5 percent; and Vinpearl Land (VPL), up 4.2 percent.

But with the VN-Index dropping below the psychological 510 mark and trading value falling beneath the VND1 trillion level, securities analysts' remained less positive about the short-term outlook.

Hoang Xuan Quyen, director of Lien Viet Securities, said investors were paying close attention to macroeconomic news, especially concerning interest rates.

With an 18 percent lending rate, listed companies would find it hard to boost business. Then the market would hardly be brightened, he said.

Director of a HCM City-based securities company agreed, saying that lower interest rates would help clear the capital in the securities markets.

Interest rate volatility continued to restrain capital flows into the securities markets, after the foreign exchange rate adjustment, he said, adding that the high rate would make it difficult for investors to access securities lending.

Meanwhile, firms would save their idle capital to their future projects rather than pumping it into financial investment, he added.

In Hanoi , the HNX-Index dropped 1.44 percent to 103.97 points.

Volume was 37.9 percent higher than on Feb. 16 at 26.2 million shares, worth 428.8 billion VND (20.4 million USD). Kim Long Securities (KLS) was the most heavily traded with 1.4 million shares changing hands.

Foreign investors on Feb. 17 sold a net volume of 183,200 shares worth 2.6 billion VND (119,815 USD) on the Hanoi market. /.