MANILA, November 4, 2005
 (STAR) (AFP) Philippine consumer prices rose seven percent from a year earlier in October, the same pace as in September, the National Statistics Office said Friday.

Month-on-month, consumer prices in October were up 0.5 percent over September when they rose by 0.4 percent.

The central bank had earlier forecast October's inflation rate at 6.5-7.0 percent with private sector estimates at 6.8-7.1 percent.

The October outcome brought the average rate for the first 10 months of the year to 7.9 percent, well ahead of the government's full-year target of 5.0-6.0 percent.

"The October rate is within the expected range and is consistent with the anticipated easing of inflation for the rest of 2005," central bank governor Amando Tetangco said in a statement.

The central bank recently said it is expecting full-year inflation to range 7.6-7.9 percent, well above the target.

Inflation in October mainly reflecting rising oil prices, the statistics office said in a statement.

"We need to be cautious and continue to watch liquidity growth and possible second-round effects (of high oil cost on consumer prices)," Tetangco said.

The central bank has raised its key overnight interest rates by a total of 75 basis points between April and October to 7.50 percent for borrowing and 9.75 percent for lending -- their highest levels in three years.

It will hold its next monthly monetary policy meeting on November 17 amid growing fears that it will raise rates again.

David Cohen, director of Asian economic forecasting at Action Economics LLC in Singapore, said he expects the central bank to hike rates by another 25 basis points before the year ends.

"The central bank may not hike rates during its next policy meeting given the encouraging inflation data in October. However, aside from inflation, they are also sensitive to the exchange rate volatility that may result from the continued tightening (of rates in the United States)," he said.

Cohen said relatively stable crude oil prices is an encouraging development but the implementation of an expanded value-added tax law on November 1, which raises fuel and electricity costs, will add to inflationary pressures.

Oil prices slip as U.S. warm weather forecasts spark selling 11/03 5:50:23 PM

SINGAPORE, (AP) - Crude prices dipped slightly on Tuesday, extending declines from Monday, after forecasts calling for warmer weather in the United States sparked a wave of selling.

Mid-afternoon in Singapore, light, sweet crude had dropped 2 cents to US$59.74 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday in New York, the contract fell US$1.46 to settle at US$59.76, the lowest close since July 28.

Heating oil slipped marginally to US$1.8235 a gallon while gasoline gained slightly to US$1.5950.

On London's ICE Futures (formerly known as the International Petroleum Exchange), December Brent futures fell 18 cents to US$57.92.

Analysts are paying close attention to the weather in the U.S. Northeast and Midwest as a determinant of demand for home-heating fuels such as natural gas and heating oil.

If the weather is warmer than usual, that will give much-needed breathing room to producers in the Gulf of Mexico that are still recovering from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Balmy weather forecast this week in the Northeast U.S. was seen as a factor in the selling, with temperatures expected in the high teens to low 20s Celsius for much of the region.

Weather can often affect futures prices for many petroleum products, as traders in the area weigh the prospects for winter heating demand from their own weather observations.

Just last week, a storm brought snow to parts of the Northeast, and oil prices rose after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting the U.S. winter to be colder than last year, but warmer than the 30-year average.

Concerns remain that increasing winter heating oil and natural gas demand in the upcoming Northern Hemisphere winter will put a strain on storm ravaged oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Market worries about tight supplies could change the downward momentum of prices.

BNP Paribas Commodity Futures broker Tom Bentz said oil prices may have further to fall over the next couple of weeks and he said he would not be surprised to see the US$55-a-barrel level tested.

"The mood is still pretty bearish," he said. "It doesn't look like we've found a bottom."

Traders have been concerned since September about reductions to oil-production and refining capacity along the Gulf coast in the aftermath of Katrina and Rita.

Recovery efforts have been slow. The U.S. Minerals Management Service on Monday said 68 percent of daily oil production and 54 percent of natural-gas production in the Gulf of Mexico remained off-line, slightly lower than Thursday.

Meanwhile, workers of Royal Dutch Shell PLC in the Netherlands began a phased shutdown of Europe's largest oil refinery in a dispute over pensions.

The strike was restricted to the Dutch facilities of the global petroleum empire.

The unions said it would take several days to cut production for safety reasons.

Philippine company to invest 30 million is Madagascar port 11/03 5:45:39 PM

MANILA, (AFP) - Philippine port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc (ICTSI) will invest more than 30 million dollars over the next two years to upgrade facilities at its new container handling concession in Toamasina, Madagascar, the company said in a statement Thursday.

The statement said ICTSI has a comprehensive plan to develop the Toamasina facility into a world-class container terminal which will require "significant investments in container handling equipment, IT systems, infrastructure, and human resources."

"While we are rolling this out, we are already developing detailed plans for the further development of the terminal over the longer term. This will necessitate further sizeable investment in all key areas," Jan Mors, ICTSI Ltd senior vice-president said.

The Madagascar venture is being handled by ICTSI subsidiary Madagascar International Container Terminal Services Ltd (MICTSL).

According to MICTSL chief operating officer Christian Gonzalez container traffic passing through Toamasina is expected to double by 2009.

The facility currently handles 104,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) a year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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