THE PESO closed sideways on Thursday with new uncertainties in the US-China trade deal as US legislators pass bills to support Hong Kong protesters’ human rights.

The local unit closed at P50.865 versus the greenback on Thursday, almost steady from the P50.87-per-dollar finish on Wednesday, according to data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The peso started trading at P50.95 a dollar. Its weakest point was at P51.03, while its best showing was at P50.85 versus the greenback.

Dollars traded widened to $1.438 billion from $947.5 million recorded on Wednesday.

“The peso moved sideways as the market is continuously watching the conclusion of the potential first phase trade agreement between the US and China. [US President Donald J.] Trump is expected to sign a controversial bill on Hong Kong human rights that may directly impact the status and result of the probable trade pact,” Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, chief economist at UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc., said in a text message.

“Some are saying that the first phase deal may be pushed back further to 2020. Siyempre nag-increase uli yung worries sa (Worries increased over the) final trade deal…kasi nga si (because the) US is asking for China to not be violent to Hong Kong protesters, that became a new condition for the US to roll back their tariffs,” a trader said in a phone call.

The US House of Representatives sent two bills to the White House that supported protesters’ human rights in Hong Kong. The House voted 417 to 1 for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act approved in the US Senate unanimously on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

Among the provisions of the bills is for the State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains “enough” autonomy for a special US trading consideration to boost its position to become a world financial center. Moreover, the measure will provide for sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in the special administrative region.

Mr. Trump earlier said China should handle the issue “humanely” and warned that a bad scenario in Hong Kong could worsen conditions for a finality of talks regarding the trade war between US and China.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party’s newspaper, the People’s Daily, said on Thursday in its front page editorial that the US should stop interfering with matters pertaining to Hong Kong as well as China’s internal affairs.

“If the US side obstinately clings to its course, the Chinese side will inevitably adopt forceful measures to take resolute revenge, and all consequences will be borne by the United States,” the editorial said.

For today, Mr. Asuncion sees the peso playing around P50.70-51, while the trader forecasts a range of P50.80-51. — LWTN with Reuters