Peso falls on virus fears, March ‘hot money’ net outflow

THE PESO weakened versus the greenback on Thursday following news of the detection of a case of the new sub-variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 in the country and data showing a net “hot money” outflow last month.

The local unit closed at P52.27 per dollar on Thursday, weaker by 15 centavos from its P52.12 finish on Wednesday, based on data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened Thursday’s session at P52.15 against the dollar. Its weakest showing was at P52.36, while its intraday best was at P51.96 versus the greenback.

Dollars exchanged declined to $1.597 billion on Thursday from $1.654 billion on Wednesday.

The peso depreciated on news of the detection of the first case of the Omicron sub-variant (BA.2.12) in the country, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a Viber message.

The virus was detected in a female who arrived from Finland earlier this month, the Department of Health said late Wednesday. The patient, who is fully vaccinated and was asymptomatic, went to Baguio City to conduct seminars.

The US Center for Disease Control earlier attributed rising infections in the world’s largest economy to the sub-variant.

The net hot money outflow recorded last month also caused risk-off sentiment, Mr. Ricafort added.

Foreign portfolio investments posted a net outflow of $305.08 million in March, the central bank reported on Thursday. This is smaller by 43.6% than the $540.97-million net outflow a year earlier but a reversal of the $274.04-million net inflow seen in February.

Last month’s net outflow is also the biggest in eight months or since the $339.7 million seen in July 2021. Analysts attributed the net outflow to worries amid the war in Russia as well as uncertainties ahead of the national elections on May 9.

Meanwhile, a trader in a Viber message said the peso “depreciated from bargain hunting after the currency briefly reached below the P52 level intraday.”

For Friday, both Mr. Ricafort and the trader gave a forecast range of P52.15 to P52.35 per dollar. — Luz Wendy T. Noble

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