THE PESO finished trading at P50.85 against the dollar on Thursday, plunging 30 centavos. — BW FILE PHOTO

THE PESO sank against the greenback on Thursday due to negative investor sentiment as the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues to spread around the world, with the outbreak already declared a pandemic.

The local unit finished trading at P50.85 against the dollar on Thursday, plunging 30 centavos from its P50.55 close on Wednesday, according to data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened the session at P50.65 against the dollar. The peso sank to the P51-per-dollar level intraday, dropping to as low as P51.05, while its intraday best was at P50.63 against the greenback.

Dollars traded went up to $1.375 billion from $934 million on Wednesday.

UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion said the peso’s weakness was driven by general risk-off sentiment in the market amid COVID-19’s spread in the country.

“Peso declined mirroring general sentiment in the market. Uncertainties continued to linger with the COVID-19 spread,” Mr. Asuncion said in a text message.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort also said there was negative sentiment in the market due to the virus.

“The peso exchange rate closed weaker amid increased global risk aversion, after renewed sell-off in stock markets around the world, triggered by the WHO’s (World Health Organization) statement that the coronavirus is now a pandemic,” he said in a text message.

In the Philippines, COVID-19 patients totaled 49 as of press time, with two reported deaths.

For today, Mr. Asuncion gave a forecast range of P50.80 to P51, while Mr. Ricafort said the peso will move around the P50.70 to P51 levels. — L.W.T. Noble with Reuters