Philippine stocks rise as virus cases slow; Taiwan dollar tops Asia FX

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(Oct 21): Philippine shares hit their highest level in over three months on Wednesday after a drop in new Covid-19 infections, while Taiwan's dollar rose the most among Asian currencies as strong export orders lifted sentiment. 

Manila's benchmark index was set to extend gains for a third consecutive day, rising 2.7% to its highest since July 9, after the Philippines reported its lowest daily increase in infections in four weeks.

Sentiment has improved recently for Philippine stocks after the passage of the 2021 budget aimed at underpinning an economic recovery, and the relaxation of further coronavirus restrictions in Manila.

"While recent gains have been impressive, I think there is still a long way to go in order for the benchmark stock index to recover back to pre-pandemic levels," said Daniel Dubrovsky, analyst at IG.

"The challenge that Philippine equities face as a whole is that about 40% of the benchmark is comprised of industrial companies... which really need the support of a strong rebound in global growth. While it is hard to say which sector could outperform, monetary policy conditions seem to be supportive of the real estate one." 

Stock markets and currencies across the rest of the region traded higher as growing optimism that US lawmakers are nearing a deal on a stimulus package helped draw money into riskier Asian assets, sending the dollar to a one-month low.

South Korea's won advanced 0.6% and the benchmark KOSPI rose 0.3%, even as preliminary trade figures showed exports out of Asia's fourth-largest economy fell again.

Taiwan's dollar extended its winning streak for a third consecutive day, rising 1% to 28.64 per US dollar after data showed export orders rose for a seventh consecutive month in September.

The currency has gained around 5% against the greenback so far this year, having benefited from stronger exports from the tech powerhouse island, helped by demand for laptops and tablets to support the work-from-home trend during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

"While central bank is likely to be monitoring the situation carefully and perhaps intervene marginally, they have little choice but to resign to the trend," said Mahesh Sethuraman, deputy head of global sales trading at Saxo Capital Markets.

"While it does hurt the competitiveness of their export economy to some extent, given Taiwan is one of the few economies to bounce back from Covid swiftly, that gives the central bank some buffer to withstand currency appreciation." 

Highlights:

  • Thailand's 10-year government bond yields are down 1.5 basis points at 1.375%
  • In the Philippines, top index gainers are Alliance Global Group Inc up 5.73% at 7.93 pesos, Robinsons Land Corp up 5.52% at 15.3 pesos, Bank of the Philippine Islands up 4.35% at 72 pesos
  • Top losers on FTSE Bursa Malaysia Kl Index include Top Glove Corporation Bhd down 4.43% at RM9.06; Hartalega Holdings Bhd down 2.94% at RM18.48; Sime Darby Plantation Bhd down 1.61% at RM4.90