THE PESO declined as the virus continued to spread to more places. — BW FILE PHOTO

THE PESO depreciated on Monday amid risk-off sentiment in the market after news of the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to other countries in Asia and even in Europe.

The local unit finished trading at P50.96 versus the dollar, weakening by two centavos from its P50.94 close on Friday, according to data from the website of the Bankers’ Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened the session at P50.98 per dollar. Its weakest showing was at P51.08, while its intraday best was at P50.94 against the greenback.

Dollars traded slipped to $1.303 billion from $1.372 billion on Friday.

Traders attributed the peso’s weakness to market’s risk-off sentiment with news of more cases of COVID-19 in other Asian countries as well as in Europe.

“It was due to risk aversion with news that there has been more cases of the virus in the Asian region and even in Europe specifically in Italy,” a trader said in a phone call.

“These reports have spooked investors over the widespread outbreak of the virus outside China,” another trader said in an e-mail.

Reuters reported data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which showed that COVID-19 patients increased by 161 to 763 on Monday.

The agency also reported that a 62-year-old man became the seventh fatality caused by the virus. He was hospitalized in Cheongdo, a county that saw surges in confirmed cases along with nearby Daegu in recent weeks.

On Sunday, the South Korean government raised its infectious disease alert to its highest level.

Meanwhile, in Italy, infected persons reached 152 as of Sunday, where most cases are in Lombardy and Veneto.

In Iran, Health Minister Saeed Namaki said on Sunday that infected persons rose by 15, bringing the total number to 43 while the death toll is eight.

“The virus came from China to Qom city. A merchant from Qom, who died of the virus, used to travel regularly to China,” Mr. Namaki said. — LWTN with Reuters