THE PESO rallied on Thursday to return to the P49-per-dollar level as the central bank kept rates unchanged and as the stock market posted gains.

The local unit ended trading at P49.96 per dollar on Thursday, gaining 31 centavos from its P50.27 close on Wednesday, based on data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines.

The peso opened Thursday’s session stronger at P50.20 against the dollar. Its weakest showing was at P50.22, while its intraday best was at P49.96 versus the greenback.

Dollars exchanged increased to $826.63 million on Thursday from $650.8 million on Wednesday.

The peso’s strength was fueled by positive market sentiment after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) kept benchmark interest rates at record lows, as expected, a trader said in an e-mail.

The Monetary Board held fire for its seventh straight policy review on Thursday. This was in line with expectations of all 15 analysts polled by BusinessWorld last week.

BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said they see scope to remain patient “amid a manageable inflation environment.”

“At the same time, downside risks to the economic recovery emanate from the emergence of new coronavirus disease 2019 variants as well as the potential tightening of global financial conditions,” Mr. Diokno said in an online briefing.

“Hence, preserving ongoing monetary policy support at this juncture shall help sustain the economy’s momentum over the next few quarters,” he added.

The market also factored in gains at the local stock market, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said.

The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange index gained 100.68 points or 1.41% to close at 7,233.46 on Thursday.

The broader all shares index likewise increased by 53.52 points or 1.41% to finish trading at 3,836.11.

For Friday, Mr. Ricafort gave a forecast range of P49.85 to P50.10 per dollar, while the trader expects the local unit to move within P49.75 to P50. — L.W.T. Noble