Bloomberg: Philippines' Inflation Negative; Weak Peso Benefits Economy

Philippines' Inflation Negative; Weak Peso Benefits Economy
Source: Bloomberg Business Week 


Negative Rate Signals Philippines Still Behind the Curve

The second rate increase  in two months isn’t going to help the beleaguered peso

The Philippines stands out as the only country with a negative inflation-adjusted benchmark rate among Asian peers that have raised borrowing costs this year. The second rate increase by its central bank in two months isn’t going to help the beleaguered peso much given the low real yields and current-account deficit, said Mitul Kotecha, a senior emerging markets strategist in Singapore at TD Securities. The monetary authority will likely have to raise interest rates in the months ahead with the next clue coming from the release of inflation data on July 5, he said.

Weak Peso Benefits Philippines Economy, Finance Chief Says

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said a weak peso is benefiting the economy, and a widening in the trade deficit and faster inflation are signs of strong growth.

Carlos Dominguez in Tokyo on June 21.Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg
The depreciation in the peso, Asia’s worst performing currency that’s lost more than 6 percent against the dollar this year, is boosting the repatriated income of about 10 million Filipinos working overseas as well as the earnings of exporters and call center operators in the $305 billion economy, Dominguez said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s David Ingles in Tokyo. The trade gap is partly fueling a slump the currency, he said.

“The trade deficit is a sign of strength of our economy because we are importing not Birkin bags or luxury goods” but factory equipment and infrastructure materials, the finance chief said on Thursday. “Rather than look at the trade deficit as an albatross around our neck, we look at it as an opportunity. Inflation also is a sign of a growing and robust economy.”

A contraction in exports in April alongside a 22 percent jump in imports widened the trade deficit to $3.6 billion, prompting the central bank to expect a bigger shortfall in the current account this year of $3.1 billion. Foreign outflows and the perception by some analysts that the central bank was slow in raising interest rates despite inflation climbing to a five-year high pushed the peso to a 12-year low this month.

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said a weak peso is benefiting the economy, and a widening in the trade deficit and faster inflation are signs of strong growth.

The depreciation in the peso, Asia’s worst performing currency that’s lost more than 6 percent against the dollar this year, is boosting the repatriated income of about 10 million Filipinos working overseas as well as the earnings of exporters and call center operators in the $305 billion economy, Dominguez said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s David Ingles in Tokyo. The trade gap is partly fueling a slump the currency, he said.

“The trade deficit is a sign of strength of our economy because we are importing not Birkin bags or luxury goods” but factory equipment and infrastructure materials, the finance chief said on Thursday. “Rather than look at the trade deficit as an albatross around our neck, we look at it as an opportunity. Inflation also is a sign of a growing and robust economy.”

Philippine Finance Chief Says Inflation 'Absolutely' Under Control

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez talks about inflation and the local currency.

A contraction in exports in April alongside a 22 percent jump in imports widened the trade deficit to $3.6 billion, prompting the central bank to expect a bigger shortfall in the current account this year of $3.1 billion. Foreign outflows and the perception by some analysts that the central bank was slow in raising interest rates despite inflation climbing to a five-year high pushed the peso to a 12-year low this month.

Dominguez said an abrupt exchange rate movement is disadvantageous because it could fan inflation and encourage speculation.

“We are comfortable with what happened last year and we just don’t want people to get excited,” he said. “We are using our tools to make sure that any change is gradual and that the economy can actually handle it.”

The Philippines on Wednesday raised its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent, becoming the latest emerging market to tighten monetary policy. Governor Nestor Espenilla said the central bank is prepared to take more action if needed. The peso rose as much as 0.2 percent on Thursday before trading little changed at 53.48 per dollar at 2:36 p.m. in Manila.

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said a weak peso is benefiting the economy, and a widening in the trade deficit and faster inflation are signs of strong growth.

Carlos Dominguez in Tokyo on June 21.Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg
The depreciation in the peso, Asia’s worst performing currency that’s lost more than 6 percent against the dollar this year, is boosting the repatriated income of about 10 million Filipinos working overseas as well as the earnings of exporters and call center operators in the $305 billion economy, Dominguez said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s David Ingles in Tokyo. The trade gap is partly fueling a slump the currency, he said.

“The trade deficit is a sign of strength of our economy because we are importing not Birkin bags or luxury goods” but factory equipment and infrastructure materials, the finance chief said on Thursday. “Rather than look at the trade deficit as an albatross around our neck, we look at it as an opportunity. Inflation also is a sign of a growing and robust economy.”

Philippine Finance Chief Says Inflation 'Absolutely' Under Control

Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez talks about inflation and the local currency.

A contraction in exports in April alongside a 22 percent jump in imports widened the trade deficit to $3.6 billion, prompting the central bank to expect a bigger shortfall in the current account this year of $3.1 billion. Foreign outflows and the perception by some analysts that the central bank was slow in raising interest rates despite inflation climbing to a five-year high pushed the peso to a 12-year low this month.

Dominguez said an abrupt exchange rate movement is disadvantageous because it could fan inflation and encourage speculation.

“We are comfortable with what happened last year and we just don’t want people to get excited,” he said. “We are using our tools to make sure that any change is gradual and that the economy can actually handle it.”

The Philippines on Wednesday raised its key interest rate by 25 basis points to 3.5 percent, becoming the latest emerging market to tighten monetary policy. Governor Nestor Espenilla said the central bank is prepared to take more action if needed. The peso rose as much as 0.2 percent on Thursday before trading little changed at 53.48 per dollar at 2:36 p.m. in Manila.

Read: Philippines Raises Key Rate for a Second Month Amid Peso Rout

Dominguez also made the following comments on Thursday

On inflation that he said is stabilizing: “A large portion of that inflation was due to unexpected increase in price of fuel worldwide, which has apparently started moderating and is now mid- to low-$60s per barrel” and the other factor is peso weakness
On government debt sales: “The fact that our revenues are up 20 percent that means to say that we’re not desperate for debt. And we are the only country in this region that actually passed a tax reform law to increase our revenue and to be able to fund our Build, Build, Build. Of course, we can’t fund it all ourselves, so we’re going to the debt market.”
On trade war: “In the short run, we will actually gain from a trade war. We are building a lot of infrastructure, and that’s a lot of steel. But that’s very short-term thinking. We’re concerned that our two biggest trading partners, China and Japan, might be vulnerable, by the way, so is the U.S. So we’re watching it very very carefully.”
— With reports from Lilian Karunungan, Cecilia Yap, and Andreo Calonzo

Read more in Bloomberg Business Week  / BloomBerg

Vietnamese Ship Runs Aground in Philippines, Damages Artificial Reefs

Sarangani Bay

Sarangani Bay. Photo: Wikipedia

A Vietnamese cargo ship has run aground off Sarangani Bay in Mindanao the southern Philippines, damaging more than 200 artificial reefs that were built more than 10 years ago by environmental conservationists, authorities said Wednesday.

The ship, the HTK Energy, was carrying a cargo of rice when it hit the artificial reefs just off the coast along the bay on Monday, said Omar Saikol, assistant superintendent of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape, a government body tasked with protecting the local marine environment.

The damaged reefs served as a habitat for various fish species, Saikol said, adding that authorities had arranged for divers to check the extent of the destruction.

“There is an ongoing investigation. We’re getting video footage of the damage to facilitate the proper assessment and imposition of possible penalties or fines,” he told reporters in General Santos City on Wednesday.

Viet namese ship
The Vietnamese cargo ship HTK Energy is pictured shortly after it ran aground off Sarangani Bay in the southern Philippines, June 18, 2018.

The artificial reefs, located just 20 meters (66 feet) near the shore, were constructed more than a decade ago by environmentalists as part of efforts to protect local biodiversity, said Katherine Lopez Bitco, a marine management specialist.

“The damage is quite extensive and the area could reach 100 to 200 square meters [1,076 to 2,153 square feet],” Bitco said.

In January 2013, a minesweeper owned by United States, the USS Guardian, ran aground on Tubbataha Reefs in the Sulu Sea, a protected marine sanctuary in southern Philippine waters considered a World Heritage Site by the U.N.

The U.S. Navy hired a Singapore-based company to dismantle the minesweeper piece by piece so it would cause no further damage. The ship’s commanding officer and navigator were subsequently relieved and the U.S. government was fined at least U.S. $1.4 million for the damage.

Reported by: Benar News, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Business World: $24-billion stock wipeout attracts top fund to the Philippines

Philippine Stock Exchange
THE PHILIPPINE Stock Exchange index has slumped around 18% from February to May. — PHILSTAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

AFTER losing $24 billion in value from its January peak, Philippine stocks are ready for a comeback.

That’s according to Alan Richardson, an investment manager at Samsung Asset Management Co., whose fund has beaten 95% of peers over the past five years. The country’s benchmark equity index slumped about 18% from February to May and has finally reached a bottom, he said in an interview.

“It has already priced in all the negatives on capital markets caused by US liquidity tightening,” Mr. Richardson said. “Just mean reversion on getting less worse is enough to make 10% or more.”

Foreign outflows have reached almost $1 billion this year and the benchmark index has slipped 9.6% through yesterday’s close, making it the Asia’s worst performing stock market in 2018.

Mr. Richardson upgraded Philippine shares to overweight from underweight, two weeks after he did the same with Indonesian stocks. The Jakarta Composite Index has gained 1.9% since he went public with his bullish stance.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index has rebounded 3.5% from a 14-month low on May 30. Analysts at Credit Suisse Group AG said the gauge has neared bottom in a report published June 7, but emphasized that “remaining headwinds should limit any bounce in shares,” citing slowing earnings growth, rising US bond yields and risks to headline inflation.

Still, Mr. Richardson thinks Philippines stocks will rally. He prefers local banks such as Bank of the Philippine Islands and Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., as well as companies that have low valuations with the potential for earnings to recover like DMCI Holdings, Inc., GT Capital Holdings, Inc. and Semirara Mining and Power Corp.

“What is there not to be positive about? Growth is still 10%, markets have fallen on US liquidity tightening, which is not going to get any worse, and fundamentals haven’t been impacted,” he said. — Bloomberg
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