Stocks fell Thursday amid thin trading, as investors stayed on the sidelines, continuing a week of volatility sparked by fears of a global trade war.
The Philippine Stock Exchange index, the 30-company benchmark, shed 22 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 8,381.85, as four of the six major sectors declined.
The heavier index, representing all shares, rose 9 points, 0.2 percent, to settle at 5,065.48, on a value turnover of P5.8 billion. Advancers outnumbered losers, 118 to 85, while 61 issues were unchanged.
Eleven of the 20 most active stocks ended in the green, led by chemical trader SBS Philippines Corp. which surged 50 percent to P9 and sugar producer Central Azucarera de Tarlac which jumped 36.4 percent to P46.85.
Property developer Ayala Land Inc. obtained a clearance from the Philippine Competition Commission to buy a 290-hectare lot from Central Azucarera de Tarlac. Ayala Land rose 0.1 percent Thursday to P41.50.
Meanwhile, most Asia stocks rose Thursday. Equities have swooned since Donald Trump last week unveiled the levies as part of his “America First” agenda, which were met with anger across the world and from leaders in his own Republican Party.
European Union officials outlined planned retaliatory measures on targeted American exports to be rolled out if the US makes good on its threat, while China said it would make “an appropriate and necessary response”.
This week has seen sharp swings in stocks from positive to negative as predictions the measures will not be as bad as feared were offset by news Wednesday the president’s pro-trade top economics advisor Gary Cohn had resigned.
But for globalists, Thursday was positive after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said there were “potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada” and other countries based on national security. And Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted: “We’re not looking for a trade war.”
A final decision on the tariffs is expected soon.
“There is a feeling that President Trump may be toning down his protectionism push,” said Makoto Sengoku, market analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Centre.
“Things may not turn out as bad as we feared before,” he told AFP.
Regional markets were mostly higher, with Tokyo climbing 0.5 percent, helped by figures showing the Japanese economy grew at a faster pace than first reported in the final three months of 2017.
Hong Kong added 1.6 percent and Sydney climbed 0.7 percent, while Seoul surged 1.3 percent. Singapore,Wellington and Taipei were also sharply up.
Shanghai gained 0.5 percent as a report showed Chinese exports surged a blistering 44.5 percent in February but imports were up a disappointing 6.3 percent. The country’s trade surplus with the US, a key touchstone with Trump, also narrowed month-on-month but is still double last February’s figure.
World markets were already in flux since the start of last month on worries about the impact of rising US interest rates, though analysts pointed out that the global economy remained on a healthy track.
“If you look at the global economic backdrop the world still looks relatively good,” JPMorgan Asset Management Australia CEO Rachel Farrell told Bloomberg TV.
“Long-term we really look at fundamentals and fundamentals across the world are actually quite strong.”
However, market-watchers expect the volatility to continue for some time, with data showing a bigger than expected rise in the US trade deficit to a nine-year high. With AFP