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relates to Pelosi, Mnuchin to Talk Stimulus Again Thursday as Gap Narrows relates to U.S. Stocks Slip With Pre-Election Aid Unlikely: Markets Wrap relates to Asia Defies Dire Predictions of a Massive Spike in Bankruptcies relates to Equinox Taps Kirkland & Ellis, Centerview for Debt Advice relates to Oman Dangles Bailout Card to Win Over Investors for Bonds relates to Fed Highlights Uncertainty Amid Uneven Recovery as Some Struggle relates to Fortress Eases Nuveen’s Concerns With Tweaks to Vegas Deal relates to South African Stocks Miss Out on Stimulus Rally as Heavyweights Fall relates to Fed’s Brainard Urges More Fiscal Aid in Dark Warning on Outlook
Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg
Markets

Philippine Peso Powers to Biggest Quarterly Gain in a Decade

Updated on

Philippine Peso Powers to Biggest Quarterly Gain in a Decade

  • Currency boosted by rising surplus, remittances, FX reserves
  • Peso has room to strengthen further by year-end, Nomura says
Indonesian Rupiah, Indian Rupee And Filippino Peso As Gloom Lifting From Asia's Emerging Currencies After Rate Hikes
Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

The Philippine peso completed its best quarter in a decade and has scope to appreciate further due to positive fund flows, according to Credit Agricole SA and Nomura Holdings Inc.

The local currency has now strengthened 4.6% this year, beating all its developing-nation counterparts over the period except the Bulgarian lev, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The rally has been driven by an expanding balance-of-payment surplus, increasing foreign reserves, and an unexpected rebound in remittances from the coronavirus crisis.

Philippine peso has been strengthening for almost two years

The peso has been at the vanguard of a rally in emerging-market currencies as they have bounced back from the coronavirus shock in March, aided by record central-bank stimulus and a weakening dollar. That’s on top of recent economic data suggesting the worst of the pandemic’s impact may now be over.

“The balance-of-payments picture for the peso has turned a lot more positive,” said Eddie Cheung, an emerging-markets strategist at Credit Agricole in Hong Kong. “The trade deficit has narrowed, significantly boosting the current account. Combined with the resilience of remittances, these are factors leading us to think the peso has room to advance.”

The Philippine currency has rallied 2.8% this quarter to close Wednesday at 48.495 per dollar after advancing to 48.35 on Sept. 16, the strongest level since November 2016. It will appreciate to 48 by year-end, according to Credit Agricole’s latest forecast.

The nation’s balance-of-payments surplus increased to $657 million in August, beating the average of $171 million for all months over the past five years, while foreign reserves jumped to a record $99 billion, from as low as $75 billion in October 2018. Remittances rose more than 7% for a second month in July, defying forecasts for a decline.

Money from abroad have recovered after steep declines

While there are plenty of peso positives, not everyone is optimistic. One of the major risks to further gains is potential central-bank intervention to curb the currency’s strength, according to Credit Suisse Group AG.

Central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno said he doesn’t expect to see further peso gains, with the currency likely to trade between 48.50 to 48.70 for now. “We can assure our countrymen that the value of the peso will be steady around current levels,” he said in an interview with People’s Television Network on Wednesday.

Read more: Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Could Navigate 4Q Dollar Storm

Policy makers seem to to be becoming less comfortable with the peso’s strength as time goes by, said Julian Wee, a Singapore-based investment strategist at the bank, which predicts the currency will weaken to 48.8 per dollar by year-end. Increased intervention will help limit near-term outperformance, and most likely lead to some amount of depreciation, he said.

There are risks to remittances too, as the government expects almost 300,000 overseas Filipinos to come home this year. Strategists as a whole are also less than enthusiastic. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey is for the peso to be little changed at 48.6 by the end of the year, and then weaken to 49.1 by the middle of 2021.

For Nomura’s Dushyant Padmanabhan, the main driver of short-term gains will be from remittances.

Funds sent home from abroad have been rising as overseas workers help families suffering from job losses amid the pandemic. Overseas cash remittances via banks climbed 7.8% in July from a year earlier to $2.78 billion. These were expected to fall 5.4%, according to a Bloomberg survey. Remittances are the nation’s largest source of foreign exchange after exports, and account for about 10% of the economy.

“The strong bounce in remittances is definitely a positive for the peso, and together with the weak dollar environment, it has room to appreciate more,” Padmanabhan in Singapore said, predicting the peso will end the year at 47.5 per dollar.

— With assistance by Andreo Calonzo

(Updated with central bank comments in 8th paragraph)