THE PESO strengthened on Friday on the back of continued optimism on the country’s growth prospects and as oil prices fell.

The local unit finished trading at P50.815 on Friday, strengthening by 16.50 centavos from its Thursday close of P50.98 per dollar.

It also appreciated by 7.60 centavos from its Jan. 17 close of P50.891.

The peso opened at P51 per dollar. Its weakest point for the session was at P51.01 while its intraday best was at its close of P50.815.

Dollars traded inched up to $1.082 billion from $981.95 million on Thursday.

UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion attributed the peso’s rise to fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data reported on Thursday.

“It seems the market was upbeat on Q4 GDP results yesterday. Strength may have been also coming from positive expectations of 2020 economic growth,” he said in a text message on Friday.

Fourth quarter GDP growth clocked in at 6.4%, a pick up from the downwardly revised six percent growth in the third quarter. This put the 2019 growth average at 5.9%, which was behind the minimum 6% growth eyed by the government.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III has said he expects GDP growth to pick up this year on the back of the government’s spending catch-up.

Meanwhile, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said the local unit climbed on the back of low global oil prices.

“Peso exchange rate closed stronger after lower global oil prices at new 1.5 month lows that could lower the import bill and trade deficit,” Mr. Ricafort said in a text message.

Reuters reported that oil prices fell 2% on Thursday as worries over the spread of the coronavirus from China point to lower fuel demand if it stunts economic growth. — L.W.T. Noble