Stock market to reopen Thursday after 2-day shutdown due to COVID-19

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The Philippine Stock Exchange trading floor in Taguig (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — Trading at the local financial markets is set to resume Thursday, March 19 after a two-day shutdown due to the Luzon-wide community quarantine.

The Philippine Stock Exchange announced on Tuesday night that trading, as well as clearing and settlement at the Securities Clearing Corporation of the Philippines, will return to service. However, stocks trading would still follow a shortened schedule. Pre-open trades will be accepted starting 9 a.m., half an hour before the opening bell. Markets will be closed by 1 p.m., two and a half hours earlier than the usual schedule.

In a joint statement, the Department of Finance and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said the task force handling the government’s COVID-19 interventions exempted the operations of trading platforms “after they assured the authorities that necessary safeguards to ensure the safety of their employees and the community they interact with are in place.”

The PSE clarified that the trading floor in Bonifacio Global City will remain closed, so trades must be done remotely. Public transportation has been shut down while people and cars are being flagged down along the streets of Metro Manila, as authorities only allow workers in critical services such as healthcare, food preparation, and supermarkets to report for duty.

The benchmark stock index sustained its nosedive Monday, ending nearly 8 percent lower to 5,335.37 – the lowest since October 2012. It tested the 5,100 level a week ago.

The Philippines was the first to shut down its financial markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are currently 187 cases and 14 deaths due to the disease in the country.

Markets in other countries have remained open despite huge losses, as the rising number of cases continue to spook investors. Local traders said market jitters would persist until they hear concrete strategies from the Philippine government in containing the pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles defended the temporary closure of local markets, saying it was not “unusual” to halt trading when a calamity strikes in Metro Manila. Previously, markets would only be closed for the day if the national government calls off work before trading hours start.

Banks remain open under the enhanced quarantine protocol. The BSP said clearing of fund transactions, checks, and online money transfers remain operational from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Meanwhile, the BSP’s Monetary Board is scheduled to tackle interest rates this Thursday. Foreign central banks have responded to the economic slowdown brought about by COVID-19 with interest rate cuts, hoping to boost domestic activity.

READ: Federal Reserve cuts rates to zero to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic

BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno earlier hinted that a rate cut as strong as 50 basis points is on the table for monetary officials. Economic managers have rolled out a P27.1-billion spending plan for COVID-19 response.