Booming Philippine Markets Pin Hopes on Duterte for Next Rally
(Bloomberg) -- Booming Philippine markets are looking for the next catalyst, and traders will be closely watching President Rodrigo Duterte when he delivers his speech to the nation on Monday.
Global risks are rising amid the prolonged trade war, and investors looking for the next leg of the market rally will scrutinize Duterte’s economic priorities as he embarks on the last half of his six-year term. Top on their minds are the $180 billion infrastructure program and new tax policies.
“If Duterte hits the right notes, markets would have another leg to rally on," said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. “There’s great interest in these measures to be prioritized to sustain the kind of growth rates we’ve been seeing.”
The ball has started rolling. Lawmakers have already filed the government’s priority tax proposals which include cutting corporate income taxes, raising levies on alcohol and streamlining fiscal incentives, Finance Assistant Secretary Maria Teresa Habitan said in an interview on Monday. Duterte is scheduled to speak before lawmakers at about 4 p.m. in Manila., after market close.
If history is any guide, there’s a big chance the peso will rise the day after the State of the Nation Address. The currency has risen in nine of the last 10 years, posting an average gain of 0.15%.
“We remain bullish on peso, and we would like to sell the dollar-peso on rallies,” said Qi Gao, a Singapore-based currency strategist at Scotiabank. The currency is among those that will benefit the most as the Federal Reserve’s dovish stance lures inflows, he said.
The peso declined 0.2% to 51.12 per dollar as of 11:02 a.m. in Manila on Monday. It rose to its strongest level since January 2018 earlier this month. The currency’s next resistance is at the 50 pesos a dollar level, Gao said.
Philippine stocks fell on Monday, in line with its historical performance in the last three decades. On the day of the president’s speech, the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index retreated about two-thirds of the time.
The index slid as much as 1.3% before paring its loss to 0.7%. But good news could be coming tomorrow as the gauge had risen more than half of the time the day after since Congress was restored in 1987, posting an average gain of 0.3%.
The trend will likely hold and given the current market momentum, the index will hit 8,500 sooner than later, according to Jun Calaycay, head of research at Philstocks Financial Inc., who called the bull market a week before it happened.
“The market is used to Duterte’s controversial antics," Calaycay said. “But should he start talking about policy, regulation and his legislative agenda then that would be a plus.”
Philippine peso bonds are outperforming peers in emerging-markets as the central bank embarks on interest-rate cuts. Ten-year bond yields fell below 5% this month from more than 8% in October.
“Relative to the rest of EM world, the Philippines is an island of stability, continuing a pace of high growth and foreign investment,” said Edwin Gutierrez, head of emerging-market sovereign debt at Aberdeen Standard Investments in London, who remains long on Philippine bonds.
Meanwhile, the government’s push to cut corporate income taxes will attract more foreign investors while the move to tax foreigners working in the offshore gaming sector will generate additional annual revenue, said Alan Atienza, treasurer at Philippine Bank of Communications in Manila.
(Updates with tax bills in fourth paragraph, peso and stocks performance in seventh to ninth.)
--With assistance from Lilian Karunungan and Tomoko Yamazaki.
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