(STAR) By Rica D. Delfinado - Financial markets shrugged off security and political concerns sparked by a bomb explosion at the House of Representatives late Tuesday night with the stock market snapping a two-day slide and the peso staying within the 42-to-a-dollar level at the close of trading yesterday.

The stock market surged by 82.13 points, or 2.3 percent, to settle at 3,681.62 points, tracking gains on regional markets as investors cheered Wall Street’s overnight rebound.

“We’ve always had the view that external developments is what has been weighing on the market and Wall Street’s turnaround confirms that,” said Lawrence de Leon of Accord Capital Equities. “Fundamentally, our market is quite solid,” De Leon said.

At the Philippine Dealing System (PDS), the peso hit an intraday high of 42.870 to $1 before settling at 42.930 or five centavos higher than Tuesday’s close of 42.980 to $1. Total transaction amounted to $421.40 million on an average rate of 42.920 to $1.

“It’s the Dow that has been pulling down our market, so it’s also right that they are the positive catalyst that helped our market recover,” said Jose Vistan Jr. research director of AB Capital Securities.

Before the market opened, the government announced that farm output rose 5.4 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, bringing agricultural growth in the first nine months to 4.3 percent and boosting expectations that the government’s full-year target of 4.5-5 percent will be hit.

Agriculture accounts for a fifth of the country’s GDP.

On the other hand, Tuesday’s explosion that killed three people, including a lawmaker, failed to dent positive sentiment.

The police are looking into the possibility that the lawmaker who was killed was the principal target, not the House of Representatives as a whole.

The attack occurred on the eve of the resumption of an impeachment hearing against President Arroyo, and just a few weeks after a deadly blast at a shopping mall in the capital’s financial district of Makati, which the authorities say was an accident.

“If subsequent findings show that it was an isolated attack, investors will be reassured, but if it’s meant to destabilize the government, it becomes a political issue and may turn off investors,” said Vistan.

The day’s biggest gainers were led by conglomerate Ayala Corp. which added P20 or 3.5 percent to P590. Ayala Corp. reported after the market closed Tuesday that its net profit for the first nine months rose 41 percent to 13.6 billion, boosted by gains across all its businesses.

Ayala’s banking arm, Bank of the Philippine Islands, the country’s third-largest bank in terms of assets, gained P3.50 or 5.4 percent to P68, while property unit Ayala Land Inc edged up 50 centavos or 3.1 percent at P16.50. Market leader Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. advanced P25 or 0.8 percent to P3,030, tracking the 2.7 percent gain in its New York-traded American Depositary Receipts overnight.

Megaworld Corp., the country’s second biggest homebuilder, inched up 30 centavos or 7.9 percent at P4.10. SM Investments Corp. rose P2.50 or 0.7 percent to P357.50. The conglomerate, the country’s third-biggest company by market value, reported a nine percent increase in third-quarter net profit.

Revenue nearly doubled on the strong performance of its retail businesses.

SM Prime Holdings climbed 50 centavos or 4.8 percent to P11. The country’s biggest operator of shopping malls reported a nine percent increase in third-quarter earnings as its continuing expansion boosted revenue.

SM Prime also announced that its board has approved the acquisition of three malls in China owned by its controlling shareholder, the family of tycoon Henry Sy. Bucking the trend is Southeast Asia’s largest food and beverage group, San Miguel Corp. San Miguel’s A shares, restricted to local investors, slipped 1 peso or 1.8 percent to P52.50, while its B shares, open to all investors, was steady at P54.

Asian stocks sharply up

Asian stocks were sharply up across the board yesterday as the region welcomed the rebound on Wall Street, where good news on the mortgage crisis and a drop in crude prices helped calm the market.

Tokyo closed up 2.47 percent, Sydney finished 1.3 percent higher, with Hong Kong surging 3.7 percent and Shanghai by 1.33 percent in midday trade, as investors shrugged off lingering worries about US subprime mortgage woes.

“There’s quite a bit of action at the top end of the market with not many areas being left behind,” said David Land, an equities analyst at CMC Markets in Australia.

The strong performance in Asia came after Wall Street roared back overnight after four rocky sessions, with the Dow surging 319.54 points and the tech-heavy Nasdaq gaining 89.52 points.

The Wall Street turnaround came after days of sell-offs linked to worries that banks could still have some subprime skeletons in the closet.

“What we are seeing is mostly a knee-jerk reaction to Wall Street’s ending its recent streak of losses in a quite dramatic manner,” said Michael Hsu, assistant vice president at Taiwan Life Asset Management. — With Technistock, AFP

PAL suffers $11.8-million net loss Thursday, November 15, 2007

Philippine Airlines (PAL) said yesterday that it suffered a net loss of $11.8 million for three months to September due mainly to higher maintenance and fuel costs as well as seasonal factors.

“The July to September period, corresponding to the second quarter of PAL’s fiscal year that starts in April, covers the low travel season of the year.

“PAL traditionally posts a loss during these rainy months,” the national flag-carrier said in a statement.

This was a sharp reversal from the three months to June when its net profit doubled to $34.5 million.

The net loss in the three months to September was also 89 percent larger than the $6.2 million net loss it suffered in the same period last year.

However PAL said that in the six months to September, PAL posted net profit of $22.7 million, up 107 percent from the same period last year.

“Overall, the second-quarter loss, while larger than last year’s shortfall, did little to diminish PAL’s strong first-half performance,” it said.

PAL, which is 84.7 percent owned by publicly listed PAL Holdings Inc, exited an eight-year receivership in October and is currently undergoing a fleet upgrade. – AFP

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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