THE PESO weakened on Wednesday as the dollar gained strength with investors opting for safer currencies amid heightened fears over the spread of the novel coronavirus from Wuhan, China around the world.

The local unit finished trading at P50.83 against the dollar on Wednesday, depreciating by eight centavos from its previous close of P50.75, according to data from the website of the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened the session at P50.72 versus the greenback. Its weakest showing was at P50.85 while its intraday best was at P50.695 per dollar.

Dollars traded climbed to $884.55 million on Wednesday from $778.1 million on Tuesday.

UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion said the peso’s depreciation came after the “continued health scare” from the coronavirus from Wuhan, China.

“The market has been relatively quiet with the health scare continuing to unfold with additional death and infected numbers. More of trend today expected tomorrow,” Mr. Asuncion said in a text message on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said the US dollar’s strength against major Asian currencies came amid “risk aversion” as concerns continue to mount due to the coronavirus that “could slowdown global economic growth, with some disruption in manufacturing activities in China.”

Reuters reported on Wednesday that deaths attributed to the coronavirus rose to 132, with the first case in the Middle East already reported.

Chinese authorities said that confirmed cases have risen to a total of 5,974 from 1,459. The said figures have surpassed the 5,327 infected with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that caused the death of about 800 people in the world from 2002 to 2003.

UnionBank’s Mr. Asuncion gave a forecast range of P50.70-P51 while RCBC’s Mr. Ricafort thinks the local unit will play around the P50.70-P50.95 margin. — Luz Wendy T. Noble with Reuters