, March 16, 2005
 (STAR) (AFP) - Filipinos working abroad sent home 723 million dollars in January, an increase of 15.9 percent year-on-year, the central bank said Tuesday.

The central bank attributed this increase to the higher numbers of Filipino workers abroad and improved efforts by local banks to convince these workers to channel their funds back home through the banking system.

New data showed that the total number of Filipinos who officially found jobs or were re-hired abroad rose by six percent in January to about 106,600, although many Filipinos find work abroad illegally.

The bulk of Filipinos working overseas in January were in Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan.

Countries that accounted for the most remittances in January were the United States, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Japan, Britain, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, said the central bank.

Total overseas remittances in 2004 hit a record 8.5 billion dollars, up 11.3 percent from 2003.

Peso breaks 54:$1 for 1st time in nearly 2 years By Rica D. Delfinado The Star 03/15/2005

The peso strengthened above the 54 to the dollar level for the first time in nearly two years yesterday, settling at 53.970 to the dollar amid expectations of more foreign fund inflows.

At the Philippine Dealing System (PDS), the local unit averaged at 53.932 to the dollar, after trading between a high of 53.860 and a low of 54.030 to $1.

Yesterday’s close was the highest since the peso last touched the 53.950 to the dollar level in July 24, 2003 and was 16 centavos higher from Friday’s close of 54.130 to the dollar. Total transactions amounted to $416 million.

The peso traded at a 19-month high of 54.13 on Friday."The peso’s continuing rise is still fueled by market anticipation of more inflows going forward such as fresh equity for Philippine companies," a dealer at a local commercial bank said.

SM Investments Corp., the holding firm of shopping mall magnate Henry Sy, is currently undertaking its initial public offering (IPO), the biggest in Philippine history. The offer came after that of utility firm Manila Water Co.

Both offers have drawn foreign investor interest.

"The possible easing of forex rules is also peso-positive as it may increase dollar liquidity in the market," the dealer said.

The central said it is looking at relaxing its foreign exchange regulations amid the rising volume of traders on the spot market.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Amando Tetangco said some banks, particularly those handling huge trading transactions, are proposing that they be allowed to increase their overbought positions to enable them to better meet the requirements of their clients.

The overbought limit, the amount of dollars that banks are allowed to keep, is now set at 2.5 percent of a bank’s unimpaired capital or $5 million, whichever is lower.

The BSP earlier said net foreign portfolio investments could go up to as high as $4 billion this year if the government manages to deliver its entire P80 billion tax reform package.

In January alone, net foreign portfolio investments have already surpassed the total inflows for the whole of 2004. –With a report from AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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