MANILA, January 10, 2006
 (STAR) By Zinnia De La Peña - In spite of the political scandals and bickering that shook the country last year, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) posted the second fastest growth rate among Southeast Asian countries, rising by 15 percent in 2005.

The growth was only 1.25 percentage points lower than the 16.24 percent increase posted by front runner Jakarta Composite Index of Indonesia. In third place was the Straits Times Index of Singapore which went up 13.61 percent followed by the SET of Thailand and the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange of Malaysia.

The SET Index reported growth of 6.83 percent while the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index fell by 0.84 percent.

Commenting on the impressive performance of the stock market, PSE president and chief executive officer Francis Lim said: "If the local market were not spooked by bad news from the political front, the Phisix would have probably enjoyed a higher growth rate, and the PSE indicator probably would have beaten all other stock indices in the region."

"We at the PSE always bear in mind that a healthy stock market acts as come-on for companies to raise needed capital by conducting an initial public offering. If companies have enough capital, they will open new businesses, which in turn will create employment opportunities for ordinary Filipinos," Lim said.

Lim said bad news in the political front last year was offset by the string of positive economic developments including expectations of higher earnings of listed firms and prospects of a lower government budget deficit due to the implementation of the expanded value-added tax.

"That’s why we at the PSE continue to pray for political sobriety and maturity among our leaders. We fully understand that their actions and decisions affect not only the prices of local stocks, but the future of millions of Filipinos," Lim said.

The market has so far been showing signs of strength since the start of the year due to the deluge of good developments in both the macro- and micro-economic environment.

Market sentiment has been buoyed by the continued strengthening of the peso, lower-than-expected inflation figure in December, and the country’s successful bond issuance.

The National Statistics Office reported that December inflation reached 6.6 percent, lower than the expected range of 6.7 percent to 7.1 percent and significantly lower than the November figure of 7.1 percent.

This brought the full year inflation to 7.1 percent, higher than the 2004 level of 6.4 percent, but better than the government’s expectation of at least 7.7 percent.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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