Increased selling pressure hit investor sentiment on March 18, dragging down shares on both national stock exchanges.

On the Hochiminh Stock Exchange, the VN-Index retreated below 580 points, losing 0.53 percent to close the session at 578.68 points.

Market conditions were negative, with 117 shares falling, 89 shares rising and 102 shares staying flat.

According to many analysts, the VN-Index falling below 580 points could cause investor pessimism that could push the market down further. Selling pressure is also rising, driven by negative information including hikes in petrol and electricity prices, and forex rates.

Increases were seen in most penny and mid-cap shares while blue chips dived.

The biggest stock in terms of market capitalisation, PV Gas (GAS), decreased 1.3 percent to end at 76,000 VND (3.55 USD).

The VN30, which tracks the top 30 shares by market value and liquidity, dropped 0.66 percent to stand at 607.88 points. Liquidity improved slightly compared with the previous day, totaling 108 million shares worth more than 1.78 trillion VND (83.2 million USD).

Property developer FLC Group (FLC) again claimed the most active spot with a whopping 24 million shares changing hands, but the price fell 1.64 percent to finish at 12,000 VND (56 US cents).

Investors have shown strong confidence in this stock with more than 17 million FLC shares exchanged on average for the last 10 days.

On the Hanoi Stock Exchange, the HNX-Index fell 0.36 percent to end at 85.05 points. Market volume declined 10 percent from the previous session to 46 million shares, while trading value was 668 billion VND (31.2 million USD), little change compared with the previous session.

KLF Joint Venture Global Investment Co (KLF) remained the leading stock with 5.4 million shares exchanged, but dipped 1.8 percent to finish at 10,900 VND. Foreign investors turned heads to become net buyers in HCM City after eight consecutive sessions of net selling. They picked up shares worth a combined 13.32 billion VND (622,400 USD). They also continued as net buyers in Hanoi, responsible for a purchases worth 6.25 billion VND (292,100 USD).-VNA