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Stocks fall; Petron, Security Bank gain

Stocks fell for the second day, as investors took profit on concerns valuations rose to an all-time high and as regional markets traded lower following a slowdown in US factory production. The Philippine Stock Exchange index, the 30-company benchmark, sank 91 points, or 1.3 percent to close at 6,748.43 on Tuesday, the biggest percentage loss in Asia. The index recorded its sharpest drop since March 19 as Bank of the Philippine Islands, the nations largest lender by market value, slumped 4.1 percent to P104.50. SM Investments Corp., the nations biggest company by market value, declined 1.4 percent to P1,130. The benchmark index rose to a record on March 27 after Fitch Ratings gave the Southeast Asian nation its first investment-grade debt rating, driving valuations to 19.7 times projected 12-month earnings, the highest based on data compiled by Bloomberg going back to 2006. The multiple was at 19.4 times Tuesday. The index fell 0.1 percent on Monday, as stocks resumed trading after holidays on March 28 and 29. Its primarily profit-taking, Allan Yu, who helps manage about $11 billion at Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., said by phone. Investors are selling following the news on the investment-grade status. Valuation is also a bit high, so the market is taking a breather. The heavier index, representing all shares, also shed 41 points, or 1 percent, to settle at 4,195.76, as losers outnumbered gainers, 97 to 56, with 41 issues unchanged. Value turnover amounted to P7.5 billion. Only two of the 20 heavily traded stocks closed higher Tuesday. Petron Corp. rose 1 percent to P14.54 while Security Bank Corp. gained 0.8 percent to P186. Meanwhile, a slowdown in US factory production sent Asian stock markets lower Tuesday. US manufacturing expanded more slowly in March than February, the Institute for Supply Management said Monday, held back by weaker growth in production and new orders. Japans Nikkei also slipped as the yen rose against the dollar. Japans Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8 percent to 12,040.10 as the yens recent weakness reversed course. A stronger currency makes products sold abroad more expensive, a hardship for Japans export-dependent economy. Analysts said, however, that the new government in Japan, with its new plan of attack to right the countrys economy, has lifted business optimism. A survey released by the Bank of Japan on Monday showed an improvement in business sentiment, although it was smaller than expected. The economy is improving, albeit slowly, and the mood has been lifted by the assertive and coordinated economic plan of the new government, Moodys Analytics said in a market commentary. With Bloomberg, AP
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