MANILA, MARCH 27, 2008
(STAR) Share prices advanced for the fourth straight session yesterday, marking its longest winning streak in two months, as investors ignored Wall Street’s lackluster performance overnight and snapped up bargains across the board.

But trading volumes fell and stocks closed off their highs on persistent concerns about the health of the US economy.

The major US indexes closed mixed overnight after data showed consumer confidence sank to a five-year low in March, while home prices fell 11.4 percent in January, their worst performance since data was first collected in 1987.

“The market started out strong but there was a bit of profit-taking towards the close due to concerns about the US economy,” said Jose Vistan Jr., research director at AB Capital Securities.

The 30-company composite index rose 26.17 points or 0.9 percent to close at 2,918.37, off a high of 2,930.35.

The all-share index was up 16.72 points or 0.9 percent at 1,789.89.

There were 75 advancers and 26 decliners, while 54 were steady.

Turnover fell to P2.6 billion, with 874.3 million shares changing hands, from Tuesday’s P3.3 billion.

“It’s a purely technical rebound for a market that is extremely oversold. Investors continued to buy on weakness, and then wait and see,” said Nestor Aguila, president of DA Market Securities.

“It could also be due to some book-squaring as the first quarter draws to a close,” he said.

Adding to the positive mood was news that Philippine imports rose a strong 27.7 percent in January, with electronics purchases, which comprised nearly half of the total bill, up 22.8 percent.

“The fact that electronic imports jumped suggests that Philippine export growth will remain very resilient and will continue to rise in the coming months,” said Frederic Neumann, an economist at HSBC in Hong Kong.

The bulk of Philippine imports are raw materials for the country’s exports, which are mostly electronic products.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), the country’s biggest company by market value, rose P30 or 1.1 percent to P2,710, tracking the hefty 4.1-percent gain in its American Depositary Receipts overnight.

PLDT began buying back shares from the open market last week as part of its plan to repurchase up to two million shares or about 1.1 percent of its total outstanding common shares.

It has bought back 98,000 shares as of Tuesday.

Philex Mining Corp, the country’s biggest gold and copper producer, rose 10 centavos or 1.7 percent to P6.10, recovering from a five-day sell-off following a rebound in gold prices overnight.

Commodities traded higher overnight as the dollar fell against other major currencies after disappointing reports on consumer sentiment and the housing market in the US.

Philex announced on Wednesday that it will buy back 10 percent of its outstanding shares from the open market at a price it perceives to be lower than the inherent value of the shares.

Banco de Oro Unibank, the country’s second-largest lender by assets, was up P1 or 2.1 percent at P48.50.

Banco de Oro said after trading hours on Tuesday that its president purchased on March 19 through the stock exchange a total of 50,000 common shares in the bank at P46.50 apiece.

International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) fell P1 or three percent to P32.50 after CLSA Securities downgraded the Philippines-based port operator to ‘sell’ from ‘buy’.

The brokerage said the expected slower domestic economic growth this year and an ongoing labor dispute in Poland, one of ICTSI’s key overseas operations, could dent the company’s earnings.

Food and drinks conglomerate San Miguel Corp’s A-shares, reserved for Filipinos, rose 50 centavos or 1.2 percent to P42.50. Its B-shares, which have no ownership restriction, gained 1 peso or 2.3 percent at P44. — Technistock

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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