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Stocks end flat; PLDT advances

The stock market closed nearly flat Friday in cautious trading, with investors biding their time ahead of the much-anticipated speech of Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index slipped just 3.81 points, or 0.05 percent, to 7,845.02 on a value turnover of P4.6 billion. Losers overwhelmed gainers, 133 to 69, with 34 issues unchanged.

Alliance Global Group Inc. of tycoon Andrew Tan lost 4.1 percent to P12.28, while Filinvest land Inc. of the Gotianun Group fell 1.8 percent to 1.65.

PLDT Inc., the biggest telecommunications firm, however, rose 2 percent to P1,153, while newly-listed Kepwealth Property Phils. Inc. rallied 13.5 percent to P20.80.

The rest of Asian markets headed into the weekend on a cautious note Friday, while the pound held the previous day’s rally fueled by rekindled hopes for a soft Brexit.

After a positive start to the week sparked by China-US trade hopes, investors have taken a wait-and-see approach ahead of Powell’s address, which will be parsed for an idea about the central bank’s plans for monetary policy.

There are hopes he will outline further cuts to borrowing costs, having done so last month for the first time since the financial crisis, but with the US economy in much better health than most others, analysts warn there could be some disappointment.

“One thing to reiterate going into tonight’s speech is that markets seem very clearly positioned for some very dovish guidance from Mr Powell on US interest rates,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

“It is a dangerous assumption to make and the corrections across various asset classes if he disappoints could make for a very emotional finish to the week’s trading session.”

That was a sentiment reiterated by New York Mellon chief strategist Alicia Levine, who pointed out that minutes from the Fed’s July meeting showed policymakers were split on the way forward owing to recent upbeat data on the economy.

“The markets want more than the Fed is going to give here,” she told Bloomberg TV.

Still, Asia’s main indexes were in positive territory. Tokyo closed 0.4 percent higher, while Hong Kong added 0.6 percent in the afternoon and Shanghai finished up 0.5 percent.

Sydney rose 0.3 percent, Taiwan put on 0.1 percent and Bangkok was 0.6 percent higher.

However, Seoul, Wellington, Mumbai and Jakarta were all lower.

The broadly positive performance followed a soft lead from Wall Street, where traders took note of another inversion of the US Treasury market—when the return on 10-year notes fell below that of two-year notes, which is seen as a sign of a possible recession.

On currency markets, high-yielding, riskier units were broadly lower as traders move into the relative safety of the dollar.

The pound slipped from three-week highs after French President Emmanuel Macron echoed German Chancellor Angela Merkel in allowing Britain to find a solution to the Irish border that has dogged negotiations since 2017. With AFP

Topics: stock market , Philippine Stock Exchange Index , Jeffrey Halley , Jerome Powell , PLDT Inc
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