The bearish spell continued at the Pakistan Stock Exchange on Wednesday, as the benchmark KSE-100 index fell for the third consecutive session, plunging nearly 700 points to end trading below the 45,000 level.

Bears maintained their grip over the bourse, as the index mostly stayed in the red zone throughout the session.

Market rumours pertaining to redemption by mutual funds fueled the bearish sentiment, which led to across-the-board profit-booking by the investors.

Moreover, the rising number of Covid-19 infections in the country coupled with the absence of any positive indicators and fresh depreciation of the rupee against the greenback continued to dent the confidence of market participants.

On the international front, increasing crude oil and commodity prices instilled pessimism, which would increase the inflationary pressure amid a higher import bill and current account deficit.

Earlier, the market started the session on a sombre note as initially it rose only by a few points to reach the intra-day high of 45,576 points. Soon after, bears pulled the index into the negative territory and from that point onwards, it remained in the red throughout the session.

In the final hour, across-the-board selling was witnessed, which dragged the index further down to below the 45,000-point mark.

At close, the benchmark KSE-100 index recorded a decrease of 673.98 points, or 1.48%, to settle at 44,833.43.

A report of Arif Habib Limited stated that heavy selling was witnessed due to an alarming increase in Covid-19 cases and higher international crude oil prices.

The market opened on a bleak note and stayed in the red zone throughout the day due to selling pressure from mutual funds, it said.

Cement sector stayed under pressure due to an uptick in international coal prices. In the last trading hour, across-the-board hefty selling was noted.

Sectors contributing to the performance included cement (-101 points), technology (-99 points), commercial banks (-73 points), exploration and production (-50 points) and fertiliser (-48 points).

JS Global analyst Neelam Naz said that the Pakistan Stock Exchange “witnessed a bloodbath amid rumours of multiple mutual fund redemptions and finally closed at 44,833, down 674 points”.

WorldCall Telecom (-7.7%), TRG Pakistan (-7.5%), Telecard Limited (-4.9%), Cnergyico Pk (-6.5%) and Hascol Petroleum (-1.1%) were the major contributors to the trading volume.

Major laggards were TRG Pakistan, Lucky Cement, Pakistan State Oil, Engro Corporation and MCB Bank.

“Going forward, we recommend investors to avail any downside as an opportunity to buy stocks of technology, fertiliser, oil and gas exploration and cyclical sectors,” the analyst said.

Overall trading volumes increased to 236.9 million shares compared with Tuesday’s tally of 165.1 million. The value of shares traded during the day was Rs8.7 billion.

Shares of 360 companies were traded. At the end of the day, 56 stocks closed higher, 289 declined and 15 remained unchanged.

WorldCall Telecom was the volume leader with 27.3 million shares, losing Rs0.18 to close at Rs2.16. It was followed by TRG Pakistan with 20.2 million shares, losing Rs7.16 to close at Rs88.36 and Telecard Limited with 18.8 million shares, losing Rs0.88 to close at Rs17.23.

Foreign institutional investors were net buyers of Rs118.86 million worth of shares during the trading session, according to data compiled by the National Clearing Company of Pakistan.