Stock index tops 8,400 points

Stocks closed above the 8,400-point level for the first time, boosted by another record performance on Wall Street with confidence high heading into the earnings season.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index, the 30-company benchmark, gained 44 points, or 0.5 percent, to settle at 8,402.81 Thursday, eclipsing the previous record of 8,398.04 which was registered two days earlier. The bellwether was also up 22.8 percent since the start of the year.

The heavier index, representing all shares, also advanced 20 points, or 0.4 percent, to finish at 4,928.28, on a value turnover of P8.2 billion. Losers outnumbered gainers, 122 to 82, while 48 issues were unchanged.

Eleven of the 20 most active stocks ended in the green, led by oil explorer PXP Energy Corp. which jumped 5.6 percent to P9.25 and food manufacturer Universal Robina Corp. which climbed 3.4 percent to P148.90. Property developer SM Prime Holdings Inc. rose 3 percent to P35.95, while conglomerate Ayala Corp. gained 2.4 percent to P1,077.00.

Meanwhile, other Asian markets mostly rose Thursday.

While US-North Korea tensions rumble on in the background, trading floors remain positive following a series of upbeat readings across global economies that have helped equities hit multi-year highs.

In New York, all three main indexes chalked up yet more records following strong corporate reports, while analysts said the mood was also improved by the small number of firms warning they expected a negative impact from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

The gains in New York provided a solid platform for Asian traders.

Tokyo’s Nikkei closed up 0.4 percent to a fresh 21-year high, while Sydney added 0.4 percent and Hong Kong was 0.2 percent higher in the afternoon. Singapore was up 0.7 percent.

Seoul gained 0.7 percent, with Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta also well up. However, Shanghai finished down 0.1 percent.

In early European trade London and Paris each lost 0.1 percent but Frankfurt added 0.1 percent.

Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers, said the recent passage of a US budget bill had left him confident that Donald Trump would be able to push through key tax and spending plans, which would give a further lift to markets.

“The question is not if, but when,” he said in a note. “I believe that the tax reforms and planned infrastructure spend are going to be the biggest catalysts for inflation and jobs growth in the US.”

On foreign exchanges, the euro built on gains after Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont adopted a more conciliatory tone in a speech on independence. The unit was at $1.1873 Thursday, up from the low $1.17 mark seen last week, though well off the $1.2033 enjoyed in September.

Later, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave him until next week to clarify whether he intends to push ahead with a breakaway, warning Madrid would suspend the region’s autonomy.

“The market appears to have welcomed the decision… to give Carles Puigdemont, the president of the government of Catalonia, five days to clarify whether he has declared independence from Spain or not,” Rodrigo Catril, FX Strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a commentary.

However, Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, warned that he still saw the single currency’s gains “as more of a relief rally as EU risk has tentatively settled”.

The dollar was also being dragged following the release of minutes from the Fed’s most recent board meeting, which suggested policymakers edging towards another rate hike but some expressing concern at still weak inflation. With AFP, Bloomberg