Stock trading remained range bound at the Pakistan bourse on Thursday and the benchmark index lost 81 points amid weak investor sentiment.

Investor spirits were dampened by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announcement of stricter restrictions across the country in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases.

Market players resorted to profit-booking as new Covid-19 infection cases touched a record high on Wednesday.

Furthermore, comments by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) country representative on government’s commitment to power tariff hike added to the bearish sentiment.

Selling pressure hurt index-heavy cement, steel, banking and automobile sectors, which recorded modest losses.

Despite an overnight rise in international oil prices, most of the local oil sector stocks closed in the red. However, the fertiliser sector outshined and closed the day with substantial gains.

Earlier, trading began with a spike and the index climbed in early hours, however, the momentum broke towards noon as investor interest weakened in the absence of positive triggers.

From that point, the index began descending and moved in a narrow range for the rest of the day.

At close, the benchmark KSE-100 index recorded a decrease of 81.04 points, or 0.18%, to settle at 45,230.18 points.

Arif Habib Limited, in its report, stated that the market traded in a narrow range of +136 points and -136 points, closing the session down by 81 points.

Total traded volume remained modest with general disinterest by investors, who disregarded the overnight increase in international crude oil prices and upcoming financial results due to be announced from April 20 onwards.

Although exploration and production stocks reacted to the increase in international crude prices, the price performance remained muted.

Cement and steel sectors, which had performed in recent sessions, saw profit-booking. Technology stocks also came under selling pressure, with the exception of Telecard Limited, which hit its upper circuit, the report said.

JS Global analyst Danish Ladhani said after trading between a high and low of 45,447 and 45,174 points, the KSE-100 index closed the session at 45,230, losing 81 points.

Volatility prevailed in the market amid profit-taking by the investors, he said.

The large-scale manufacturing (LSM) sector continued to be on the uptrend with 4.85% growth in February compared to the same month of previous year. Cumulatively, the 8MFY21 LSM growth came in at 7.45% year-on-year, he said.

“We expect the market to remain volatile ahead and recommend investors to book profits on the higher side and wait for any sharp dips to accumulate value stocks, mainly in cement and steel sectors,” the analyst said.

Overall trading volumes rose to 347.7 million shares compared with Wednesday’s tally of 341.9 million. The value of shares traded during the day was Rs12.6 billion.

Shares of 374 companies were traded. At the end of the day, 134 stocks closed higher, 218 declined and 22 remained unchanged.

Telecard Limited was the volume leader with 73.6 million shares, gaining Rs0.92 to close at Rs12.37. It was followed by WorldCall Telecom with 64.9 million shares, gaining Rs0.08 to close at Rs1.56 and Hum Network with 17.4 million shares, losing Rs0.29 to close at Rs6.45.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers of Rs187.8 million worth of shares during the trading session, according to data compiled by the National Clearing Company of Pakistan.