THE PESO strengthened versus the greenback on Thursday for the seventh straight day amid a possible release of oil reserves, which could temper supply concerns amid the Russia-Ukraine war.

The local unit closed at P51.74 per dollar on Thursday, appreciating by 27 centavos from its P52.01 finish on Wednesday, based on Bankers Association of the Philippines data.

This was the peso’s strongest finish in nearly a month or since March 3, when it closed at P51.50 against the dollar, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a Viber message.

The peso opened Thursday’s session at P51.98 versus the dollar. Its weakest showing was at P51.995, while its intraday best was at P51.74 against the greenback.

Dollars exchanged dropped to $1.047 billion on Thursday from $1.119 billion on Wednesday.

The peso appreciated amid the decline in international crude oil prices as the United States is considering to release some of its strategic oil reserves, a trader said in a Viber message.

The Biden administration is considering releasing up to 180 million barrels of oil over several months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), four US sources said on Wednesday, as the White House tries to lower fuel prices, Reuters reported.

The latest amount of US oil release being considered, which is equivalent to about two days of global demand, would mark the third time the United States has tapped its strategic reserves in the past six months, and would be the largest release in the near 50-year history of the SPR.

The International Energy Agency member countries are also set to meet on Friday at 1200 GMT to decide on a collective oil release, a spokesperson for New Zealand energy minister said in an e-mail, aimed at calming global crude prices that scaled 14-year highs this month amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Oil prices fell sharply on Thursday. Brent crude futures for May dropped 3.6% or $4.11 to $109.34 per barrel by 0637 GMT on Thursday. Meanwhile, the US West Texas Intermediate futures for May delivery sank by $5.33 or 4.9% to $102.49 a barrel after touching a low of $100.85.

The market is awaiting a statement from US President Joseph R. Biden regarding policies to lower gasoline prices amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

Mr. Ricafort added that there was optimism in the market following the release of data showing faster lending growth.

Central bank data released on Thursday showed outstanding loans by big banks increased by 8.8% in February, quicker than the 8.4% seen in January. Both lending for production activities and consumers increased by 9.7% and 0.9%, respectively.

For Friday, Mr. Ricafort gave a forecast range of P51.65 to P51.90, while the trader expects the local unit to move within P51.75 to P52 a dollar. — LWTN with Reuters