MARKET  EASES  AS  INVESTORS  AWAIT  SC  DECISION  ON  EVAT

MANILA, October 19, 2005
 (STAR) Share prices closed flat yesterday as investors kept to the sidelines, awaiting a Supreme Court decision on a vital tax bill, dealers said.

They said the Supreme Court is due to make a final decision later on whether an expanded value-added tax (VAT) bill, signed into law in May, can finally be implemented.

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index fell 0.13 points to 1,947.33 after trading between 1,943.91 and 1,949.82.

Volume turnover amounted to 287.01 million shares worth P498.24 million.

The all-shares index gained 1.54 points to 1,180.80.

Losers outnumbered gainers 27 to 23, while 65 stocks were unchanged.

"Everyone is waiting for the news on the expanded VAT," said Astro del Castillo of First Grade Holdings Inc.

The tax measure, which was originally intended to be implemented in July, is the centerpiece of the government’s reform program to reduce its huge fiscal deficit. However the opposition filed a restraining order against the bill with the Supreme Court.

"There are two things that have to be considered in this issue. First, will the Supreme Court lift the restraining order? And if the court does, will the government be bent on implementing the measure?," del Castillo remarked.

Continuing political tension exacerbated by a series of street protests seeking President Arroyo’s ouster also sidelined investors.

"Right now, there’s a lack of interest in the market. People have become more selective, and the political noise has contributed much to this," said Mark Alan Canizares of Citiseconline.com.

SM Investments Corp. was top-traded, rising P4 to P218.

However losses in First Philippine Holdings Corp. pulled down the main index as the stock fell by P2 to P42.

SM Prime Holdings Inc. ended unchanged at P7.30 while Banco de Oro Universal Bank was flat at P31.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. closed steady at 1,660 after a two-day slide.

San Miguel Corp. saw its A shares, exclusive to Filipinos, remain at 65 while its B shares, available to foreigners, slipped 54 centavos to P92.

Gains in Jollibee, which rose 2.9 percent to P35.50, helped limit the market fall.

JG Summit was up 2.5 percent at P4.05 on continued investor interest in the stock after the Philippine holding group of tycoon John Gokongwei earlier this month made an offer to buy the remaining 70 percent of United Industrial Corp. – AFP, AP


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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