Global funds have pulled more than $600 million from Philippine stocks since inflows this year peaked in August as Rodrigo Duterte cursed while talking about President Barack Obama and announced a “separation” from the U.S. during an official visit to China. Concerns that his outbursts may jeopardize investments in the nation’s more than $20 billion business outsourcing industry have forced his administration’s top officials to assure companies their interests will be protected as the leader builds new global alliances.
The last time the Philippine peso neared 50 to the dollar, the global financial system was melting down and the central bank raised interest rates to defend it. This time, it has been driven by the president cursing his trading partners and his finance chief accepting the declines.
Credit Suisse Group AG and Rabobank Groep predict the currency will weaken past 50 per dollar next year, a level last seen in November 2008. Pioneer Investment Management Ltd. doesn’t see the peso as a long-term, strategic investment. The currency fell to a seven-year low of 48.618 in October, and was Asia’s worst performer in the third quarter, when it fell 3 percent.
American companies account for more than 70 percent of the business-process outsourcing industry’s revenue, which is estimated at $22.9 billion this year, according to IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines. The industry is set to become a key foreign-exchange earner amid fluctuations in the amount of money remitted by overseas workers, which makes up about 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Exports have fallen for 17 straight months.
While American companies will continue operating in the Philippines unless official sanctions are imposed, the peso may slide further should the president continue to surprise markets with his “unorthodox rhetoric,” according to Stuart Allsopp, head of country risk and financial markets strategy in Singapore at BMI Research, a unit of Fitch Group.