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Stocks gain; Metrobank advances

The stock market rose Wednesday in mixed trading after investors turned cautious after the release of a government report Tuesday showing weak exports in January. 

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index added 18.61 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,766.15 on a value turnover of P5.1 billion. Losers, however, beat gainers, 101 to 82, with 60 issues unchanged.

The trade deficit widened to $3.76 billion in January from $3.16 billion a year ago, as imports rebounded while exports continued to decline, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show.

Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., the second-biggest lender in terms of assets, climbed 3.8 percent to P78.90. SM Prime Holdings Inc., the largest integrated property developer, gained 2.6 percent to P37.65.

Universal Robina Corp., the biggest snack food maker, rose 2.6 percent to P144.80, but parent JG Summit Holdings Inc. fell 2.8 percent to P63.20.

The rest of Asian markets retreated Wednesday after two days of gains but the pound enjoyed a slight uptick after the previous day’s sharp losses as British officials looked to ease concerns about the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit.

The sterling saw wild fluctuations Tuesday as it hit a near two-year high on news Prime Minister Theresa May had won a last-minute revision to her agreement with the European Union.

But it then tanked to a three-week low as it was tossed out by MPs at Westminster later in the day.

The decision means lawmakers will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU on March 29 without an economic agreement—which is expected to fail—then Thursday on whether to extend the deadline.

The news from London added to selling pressure on Asian equity markets, which had enjoyed a bounce Monday and Tuesday from last week’s battering, with investors still on edge over the state of the global economy.

Tokyo ended one percent lower, while Shanghai fell 1.1 percent and Hong Kong lost 0.4 percent.

Seoul shed 0.4 percent, Sydney gave up 0.2 percent and Singapore was off 0.8 percent. Wellington also retreated, though Taipei, Mumbai and Jakarta were slightly higher.

In a bid to ease concerns about the financial impact on the economy if MPs vote later in the day to leave with no agreement, officials in London said they will slash tariffs on 87 percent of imports, and will not apply customs checks on the border with Ireland.

However, there remains a lot of uncertainty, with some observers suggesting the latest developments put the country a step closer to another referendum, while others say it could make a divorce without an agreement more likely.

“My tuppence is that parliament has, in their own mind, seized control of the Brexit process and will duly ask and likely get an extension to the 29 March exit date,” said OANDA senior market analyst Jeffrey Halley.  

“The breathing space granted will be used by whomever to renegotiate a more palatable Brexit deal for the UK. Except nobody has asked the Europeans yet. A short-term gain may yet belie long-term pain.” With AFP

Topics: stock market , Philippine Stock Exchange , PSE , Philippine Stock Exchange Index , PSEi , Metrobank
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