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Stocks down; Metrobank declines

The stock market fell slightly Thursday in last-minute selling as investors took profits after an early window dressing at the close of the month’s trading.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index slipped 14.58 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,367.85 on a value turnover of P20.1 billion after opening strongly. Gainers, however, beat losers, 112 to 78, with 52 issues unchanged.

Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., the second-biggest lender in terms of assets, lost 1.6 percent to P74.60, while Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc., which is into power generation and distribution, banking, food, shipbuilding and infrastructure, dropped 4.2 percent to P52.20.

International Container Terminal Services Inc., the largest port operator, declined  3.5 percent to P93.50, but ISM Communications Corp., a member of the group declared by the government as the country’s third major telecommunications firm, jumped 22.6 percent to P6.41.

The dollar, meanwhile, extended losses in Asia while most equities rose after the head of the Federal Reserve hinted at a softer pace of interest rate hikes, though investors remain wary about the weekend’s crunch trade talks between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping.

Most Asian equities tracked a rally in New York, where the Dow and S&P 500 surged more than two percent while the tech-rich Nasdaq piled on three percent.

Tokyo was 0.4 percent higher, Sydney added 0.6 percent, Singapore put on 0.7 percent and Seoul was up 0.3 percent. Wellington, Mumbai and Jakarta also registered strong gains.

However, profit-taking dragged Hong Kong down 0.9 percent in the afternoon while Shanghai sank 1.3 percent.

US markets were sent soaring Wednesday after Fed chief Jerome Powell said borrowing costs were still historically low but only “just below” the neutral level, a rate that neither stimulates nor restrains the economy.

While the central bank is widely expected to lift rates, his comment was a far cry from his characterization last month of them being “a long way from neutral.”

The fear of higher US interest rates—fueled by a surging economy—has been a key driver of a global equity sell-off over the past few months, while the dollar has soared as traders put cash into the US looking for better, safer returns.

Observers said the remarks provided some much-needed cheer after months of negativity and ahead of the festive period.

“Powell’s dovish pivot reduces nagging concerns about vigorous interest rate hikes while providing the market with one of the best holiday gifts, a significant bounce in global equity markets,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA.

The dollar was down against its major peers as well as high-yielding and emerging market currencies, which have suffered a painful 2018. The pound even managed to strengthen despite warnings about the dire consequences of a no-deal Brexit from the Bank of England.

Among the big winners, the South African rand and Mexican peso each climbed around 1.5 percent, while Indonesia’s rupiah, the Australian dollar and Indian rupee all jumped more than one percent. With AFP

Topics: Stock Market , Philippine Stock Exchange , PSE , Philippine Stock Exchange Index , PSEi , Metrobank
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