The VN-Index gained 2.13 points yesterday, closing the day at 314.04, as trading volumes improved on the HCM City Stock Exchange.

Volume rose by 41 per cent over Monday' session to 10.3 million shares on a turnover of about VND257 billion (US$15.12 million), while the day witnessed 108 gainers and 32 losers.

VietFund Management (VFMVF1) and Saigon Securities Inc (SSI) were the most active codes yesterday, each racking up a volume of about 1.1 million.

Foreign investors helped drive the improved volumes, responsible for about 3.5 million shares changing hands. They were net buyers of nearly 843,000 shares, with a net value of VND31.7 billion ($1.86 million).

Ho Chi Minh City Securities Co General Director Johan Nyvene predicted: "There's a possibility that the market will see strong fluctuation in the first half of the year, when companies fully disclose their audited 2008 financial statements."

But he also expected the market would stabilise by mid-year, with the VN-Index likely to finish out 2009 at no more than 30 per cent higher, with average daily trading values of about VND750 billion ($44 million) on the HCM City and Ha Noi markets combined.

Nyvene explained that 2009 would be a trial period, comparable to the 2003-05 period, when satisfactory profits followed long-term investments.

In Ha Noi yesterday, the HASTC-Index closed up 1.69 per cent, ending the day at 105.53 points, with 110 codes advancing and 28 declining. Trading volume nearly doubled the previous session's figure, climbing to 6.3 million shares, with a total value of VND112.57 billion ($6.6 million).

Trading on the northern exchange concentrated on Kim Long Securities (KLS) with 2 million shares changing hands, and Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), with 1 million.

Nguyen Thi Hoang Lan, deputy director of the Ha Noi Securities Trading Centre, said the centre would concentrate in the coming months on the development of the over-the-counter (OTC) market, with the unlisted public company market (UPCoM) being part of the plan, to better manage this market.

A separate bond market would also be developed, she said, adding that many investors shifted to the bond market - a lower-risk channel - when the stock market declined.

"We have experienced so many challenges in 2008 that I think this is an opportunity for authorities to look back and figure out better ways to go," said Lan.