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From trading board to floor, coronavirus creeps back to PSE

From trading board to floor, coronavirus creeps back to PSE

MANILA, Philippines — Coronavirus crept back on investor radar on Wednesday with equity markets falling and the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) getting forced to shut down headquarters as infection reaches the trading floor.

The start of daily trading was immediately disrupted after Ramon Monzon, PSE president and chief executive, announced an employee tested positive for the deadly virus, prompting the closure of the PSE building in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig for 24 hours to decontaminate offices. Contact tracing was also initiated.

“Stock market trading will not be affected by the closure of the trading floor as trading participants are equipped to conduct offsite trading. Business functions of the Exchange will also not be hampered by the closure as its employees have an alternative work arrangement,” Monzon said.

“The PSE will initiate contact tracing to identify the individuals that the employee was in close contact with when the staff member was in the premises of the Exchange,” he added.

As the trading floor is expected to reopen Thursday, it would do so from the negative territory. The benchmark PSE index fell 108.95 points or 1.73% from previous day to close at 6,188.83. All sub-indices, with the exception of mining and oil, were in the red. 

Meanwhile, mining and oil added 139.05 points or 2.71%.

“Local shares closed lower towards the end of trading as improving economic data was offset by the ability of the US to respond to rising COVID-19 cases,” Luis Limlingan, managing director at Regina Capital brokerage, said in a market commentary.

The local outbreak also factored in investor sentiment. “I think this is due to the worries over COVID-19 cases in the country and upcoming earnings data somehow (giving) investors hesitation to fully invest right now,” said Piper Chaucer Tan, research associate at Philstocks Financials.

Foreigners were net sellers with P2.07 billion more shares sold than bought.

Apart from COVID-19 concerns, Tan said investors are also expecting the central bank to hold from delivering fresh monetary stimulus at its meeting on Thursday. Since March, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has cut interest rates by 125 basis points to a record-low of 2.75% to pump more liquidity to the financial system.

“I don’t think that the (BSP) decision will have a significant effect on the trades tomorrow,” Tan said in a text message. BSP is expected to announce its decision tomorrow hours after trading have closed. 

Quarantine protocols

Since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was enforced in Luzon last March, trading at the local bourse had been shortened to four hours from the original seven hours. The shortened trading has remained in effect even after lockdown measures were eased last June 1.

That said, at a time stringent quarantine protocols were in place under ECQ, PSE implemented a full off-site trading, and it was only last June 1 when the warm bodies in the trading floor was welcomed back under strict physical distancing measures.

Following current containment measures, only one trader per trading booth are allowed enter to the trading floor to minimize risks of infection spread.

“We will abide by the protocols prescribed by the DTI-DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in the event a worker is suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19,” Monzon said.