THE PESO slightly weakened against the dollar on Friday after more provinces were placed under tighter restrictions due to a surge in coronavirus cases. 

The local unit closed at P51.37 per dollar on Friday, dropping by three centavos from its P51.34 finish on Thursday, data from the Bankers Association of the Philippines showed. 

The peso opened Friday’s session at P51.42 against the dollar. Its intraday high was at P51.33, while its worst showing was at P51.47 versus the greenback. 

Dollars traded grew to $993.2 million on Friday from $858.95 million a day earlier. 

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said the peso weakened after some areas of the country were placed under strict lockdown. 

The government placed Kalinga, Ifugao, Mountain Province, and Northern Samar under Alert Level 4 until the end of the month as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases increase. 

Meanwhile, 15 areas were placed under alert level 3. 

“Peso also weaker after softer US economic data, with US initial jobless claims among the worst in three months partly due to lingering Omicron variant concerns and softer US existing home sales data,” Mr. Ricafort said. 

US jobless claims last week increased by 55,000 to 286,000, the highest since mid-October. 

Meanwhile, a trader said the local currency weakened on expectations of hawkish signals from the US Federal Reserve. 

The Federal Open Market Committee will hold its first meeting of the year next week as investors anticipate rate hikes. — J.P. Ibañez