THE PESO weakened further on Thursday as the spread of the coronavirus continues to escalate, with already one confirmed case in the country.

The local unit finished trading at P50.96 per dollar on Thursday, weakening by 13 centavos from its P50.83 close on Wednesday.

The peso opened at P50.89 against the greenback. Its weakest showing was at P51 while its intraday best was at P50.83 versus the dollar.

Dollars traded inched up to $948.5 million from $884.5 million on Wednesday.

An analyst and a trader attributed the peso’s depreciation to the worries caused by the escalation of the coronavirus epidemic.

“The peso depreciated anew as local participants remain cautious from the recent developments over the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus,” a trader said in an e-mail.

The virus has caused the depreciation of other Asian currencies as well, according to UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion.

“This slight decline may have been factoring in the virus scare as other Asian currencies, particularly the yuan, has weakened. Peso is expected to continue its steady depreciation as the virus scares continue to develop,” Mr. Asuncion said in a text message.

Reuters reported that the Department of Health has confirmed the first case of the new coronavirus in the Philippines.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque said in a news conference that a 38-year-old Chinese woman who arrived in the country from Wuhan on Jan. 21 tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The patient is currently admitted in a government hospital in Manila, Mr. Duque added.

As of Thursday, the virus has already killed 170 people in China and has infected 7,800 people across the world.

For today, the trader sees the local unit moving around P50.85-P51.05 against the dollar, while Mr. Asuncion gave a forecast range of P50.85 to P51.25.

Other Asian currencies also weakened on Thursday, with the Thai baht sliding to a more than seven-month low, hard hit by worries over the rapid spread of a new virus from China and its economic impact.

Mounting death toll from the novel pneumonia-like virus has prompted the World Health Organization to reconvene a meeting later in the day to decide if the outbreak now constitutes a global emergency. — LWTN with Reuters