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Shares decline further as new COVID-19 variant emerges

Philippine Stock Exchange index

STOCKS decline further on Friday as news of a new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) variant spooked investors.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) dropped 90.83 points or 1.23% to close at 7,278.44 on Friday, while the broader all shares index lost 41.88 points or 1.07% to end at 3,871.39.

“The local bourse joined its regional peers in the red territory this Friday as COVID-19 worries resurface. This comes amid growing concerns over a new variant,” Philstocks Financial, Inc. Senior Research and Engagement Supervisor Japhet Louis O. Tantiangco said in a Viber message.

South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications, Reuters reported.

The variant — called B.1.1.529 — has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at a news conference.

South Africa has confirmed around 100 specimens as B.1.1.529, but the variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong, with the Hong Kong case a traveler from South Africa. As many as 90% of new cases in Gauteng could be B.1.1.529, scientists believe.

All sectoral indices closed in the red on Friday led by property, which dropped 63.37 points or 1.87% to 3,324.31. Services retreated by 33.3 points or 1.65% to 1,976.48; financials went down 22.3 points or 1.38% to 1,586.50; mining and oil decreased 102 points or 1.06% to 9,485.32; industrials slipped 83.48 points or 0.78% to 10,621.42; and holding firms slid 44.86 points or 0.63% to 7,040.27.

Value turnover rose to P9.97 billion on Friday with 1.04 billion issues switching hands from the P8 billion with 1.31 billion shares traded the previous trading day.

Decliners beat advancers, 134 against 66, while 43 remained unchanged.

Net foreign selling increased to P545.03 million on Friday from the P542.81 million seen on Thursday.

“On Monday, focus will be given to the MSCI rebalancing, while the whole week investors will be watching the new variant and whether it spreads across Asia. There could also be some window dressing…,” Regina Capital Development Corp. Head of Sales Luis A. Limlingan said in a Viber message. — MCL with Reuters

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