iglesia's  support for gma boosts peso, stocks

MANILA, May 4 , 2004 (STAR) By Rica D. Delfinado  - Financial markets cheered recent reports that the vote-rich Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) will support President Arroyo on May 10.

The peso rallied yesterday, gaining a notable 30.5 centavos to settle back at the 55 level of 55.765 to the dollar from Friday’s close of 56.070 to $1 as investors were encouraged by prospects that Ms. Arroyo would get a fresh six-year term as president.

Stocks also rose, helped by reports that INC would support President Arroyo in the upcoming election, analysts said.

The main index finished 7.64 points or 0.49 percent higher at 1,562.65 points. The market is up 8.34 percent so far this year.

"Investors are positioning as the political picture gets clearer ahead of the elections," said First Grade Holdings managing director Astro del Castillo.

"The possibility of President Arroyo winning the election is becoming more evident," Del Castillo added.

The support of the INC group would be a major boost for Ms. Arroyo as she attempts to win a second term after recent opinion polls showed her gaining a clear lead over opposition candidate and movie actor Fernando Poe Jr., analysts said.

Trading at the Philippine Dealing System (PDS) was heavy at $218 million on an average rate of 55.847 to the dollar.

At the stock market, blue chips led by Globe Telecom Inc., jumped 1.76 percent, or P15, to P865.

But profit-taking in select blue chips such as Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) and its 45-percent owned mobile phone unit Pilipino Telephone Corp (Piltel) limited gains for the broader market.

Value turnover dipped to P538.20 million ($9.6 million) from Friday’s P619.64 million.

In the broader market, however, losers beat gainers 26 to 15 and there were 34 stocks unchanged.

Analysts said the market will likely drift sideways in the coming days with players cautious ahead of the May 10 election.

"The market will hover around 1,530 to 1,600 level," Del Castillo said.

PLDT, due to release first-quarter results on Tuesday, dipped 0.46 percent or P5 to P1,075.

Piltel, the country’s third-largest mobile phone firm, fell 7.06 percent, or 12 centavos, to P1.58, after PLDT said Smart was seeing only tepid interest from creditors in its plan to buy the debt of Piltel.

Smart, PLDT’s banner mobile firm, has extended to May 31 a repeated offer to buy the debt of Piltel after Piltel failed to convince creditors to extend their debts by the April 30 deadline with this latest extension.

Piltel creditors have up to May 31 to decide whether or not to take up Smart’s offer.

Metropolitan Bank, the country’s largest commercial bank, rose 0.50 centavo, or two percent, to P25.50 after reports that the bank posted a net of profit of P665.2 million in first quarter, up 43 percent from P465 million a year ago.

The all shares index was up 1.56 points at 973.03. The commmercial-industrial index fell 0.62 to 2,441.21 and property dropped 3.33 to 545.37. The mining sector was down 30.99 at 1,392.34 but oil was unchanged at 1.18 points.

Banking and financial services advanced 15.71 points to 459.50.

However, decliners led gainers 26 to 15, while 34 stocks were unchanged as some investors opted to pocket gains, wary in the run-up to the May 10 national election. –With wires

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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