MANILA, December 8, 2005
 (STAR) By Des Ferriols - The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) hit $18.098 billion in November, surpassing the whole-year 2004 level of $17 billion due to strong inflows from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday.

A slight decline, however, of $98 million from the October level of $18.089 billion was recorded but the BSP remains confident inflows will continue to be strong for the rest of the year.

Data from the BSP indicated that the end-November GIR was enough to cover about four months worth of imports of goods and payments of services and income.

The country’s reserves was also equivalent to three times the country’s short-term debt based on original maturity and 1.6 times based on residual maturity.

According to BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr., the month-on-month decline in the GIR level was attributed mainly to the payments of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the National Government (NG) and the BSP.

"The outflows, however, were partly offset by proceeds from the term loan facility and floating rate notes availed of by the Bangko Sentral as well as its income from investments abroad," Tetangco said.

Net international reserves, inclusive of revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, slightly dipped to $17.261 billion from $17.265 billion last month.

The country’s GIR surpassed the whole-year 2004 level as early as June when the reserves reached $17.337 billion due to the government’s $750-million global bond issue.

Because of strong inflows, the BSP has already upgraded its projected balance of payments (BOP) surplus for this year from $852 million to $2 billion, mainly due to record-high remittances from overseas workers.

Remittances from overseas Filipino workers, according to Tetangco, is expected to reach $11 billion and could possibly go up to as high as $12 billion including the inflows not captured by the banking system.

Early in the year, the BSP was only expecting the GIR to reach at least $16 billion to $17 billion compared to the original projection of $14 billion to $16 billion.

Market gains on strong peso, yearend window dressing The Philippine Star 12/08/2005

Shares prices rose yesterday, lifted by the strong peso and ignoring renewed security concerns and political noise.

The 30-company Philippine Stock Exchange Index closed 4.27 points, or 0.2 percent, higher at 2,103.42, after declining 0.8 percent Tuesday.

"Investors are now dressing up their portfolios ahead of the year end," said James Lago, research head at Westlink Global Equities.

Traders said positive developments overshadowed reports of bomb threats against the US and other foreign embassies and the strafing of a building in the financial district of Makati owned by the family of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s husband.

BPI Securities said in a report that investor confidence is being underpinned by "the peso appreciation and the fact that oil prices have gone down from their recent high of $70 per barrel."

The US dollar dropped early Wednesday to P53.85, its lowest since March, on the strong inflow of overseas Filipino workers’ remittances.

Gainers outnumbered losers 44 to 25, with 64 issues unchanged.

The leading advancer was Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., which rose 1.1 percent to P1,785, after a 1.3 percent rise in the price of its American depositary receipts in New York overnight. PLDT accounted for 37 percent of Wednesday’s transactions.

Other major gainers were Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., up 1.5 percent to P33.50, and oil refiner Petron Corp., which advanced 3.4 percent to P4.60.

Pilipino Telephone Corp., which is the nation’s third-largest mobile phone company and a subsidiary of Smart, added 5 centavos, or 1.4 percent, to P3.60.

Philex Mining’s Class A shares, which are reserved for Filipinos, rose 8 centavos, or 6.1 percent, to P1.40, its highest since Jan. 27. Its Class B shares, which have no ownership restrictions, added 8 centavos, or 4.8 percent, to 1.74, also its highest since Jan. 27.

Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co.’s Class A shares, equity in the nation’s second-largest miner by market value, gained 0.5 centavo, or 2.3 percent, to 22. Its Class B shares was unchanged at 25 centavos.

The cost of gold in Sydney reached $511.70 an ounce before retreating to $509.30.

Shares worth P1.06 billion were traded, 6.1 percent less than the six-month daily average. Gainers edged losers, 44 to 25, with 64 unchanged. – AP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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