Stocks decline further as BSP keeps rates steady

STOCKS continued to decline on Thursday as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) kept benchmark interest rates unchanged as expected and as US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell began his two-day congressional testimony.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) fell by 19.30 points or 0.3% to end at 6,404.91 on Thursday, while the broader all shares index went down by 9.12 points or 0.27% to close at 3,417.69.

“Philippine shares logged another day of declines as [as investors] waited for the BSP meeting to conclude. Investors remained to be in a wait-and-see mode as they brace for the [Monetary Board’s] rate decision… and are keeping tabs on Powell’s testimonies,” Regina Capital Development Corp. Head of Sales Luis A. Limlingan said in a Viber message.

The BSP on Thursday kept its policy settings unchanged for a second straight meeting, as predicted by 15 economists in a BusinessWorld poll last week, as it expects inflation to continue easing and to return within its 2-4% target before the year ends.

AB Capital Securities, Inc. Vice-President Jovis L. Vistan said in a Viber message that the market continued to digests comments from Fed officials.

“The Fed believes that they have way to go in their goal of bringing inflation down to 2%,” Mr. Vistan added.

Further Federal Reserve rate increases are “a pretty good guess” of where the central bank is heading if the economy continues in its current direction, Mr. Powell said in remarks on Wednesday to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, Reuters reported.

In response to a question late in a three-hour hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Mr. Powell said he would not characterize the Fed’s decision last week to hold interest rates steady as a “pause,” and noted the fact that a majority of policy makers see two more quarter-point rate increases as likely by the end of the year.

The majority of sectoral indices fell on Thursday except for services, which went up by 14.71 points or 0.96% to 1,544.17.

Meanwhile, industrials shed 113.60 points or 1.25% to end at 8,981.44; mining and oil declined by 59.44 points or 0.6% to 9,799.47; property fell by 12.88 points or 0.49% to 2,597.08; financials dropped by 7.85 points or 0.43% to 1,832.32; and holding firms went down by 8.35 points or 0.13% to 6,318.93.

Value turnover went up to P5.45 billion on Thursday with 926.13 million shares changing hands from the P5.17 billion with 598.87 million issues traded on Wednesday.

Decliners outnumbered advancers, 106 versus 73, while 47 names closed unchanged. — A.H. Halili with Reuters