THE BELLWETHER INDEX hit a fresh record high on Thursday following the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September meeting and comments from central bank officials that maintained the US economy is stable enough to withstand another rate hike by the end of the year.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) climbed 0.53% or 44.34 points to 8,402.81, a fresh all-time high.

The broader all-shares index rose 0.41% or 20.40 points to 4,928.28 points.

“The market welcomed the favorable statements from the Fed last night, signaling a strong US economic rebound,” Lexter A. Azurin, senior equity analyst at AB Capital Securities, Inc., said in a text message on Thursday.

“Philippine markets resumed the upward trajectory as the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee meeting confirmed what was on many analysts’ mind,” Regina Capital Development Corp. Managing Director Luis A. Limlingan said.

Federal Reserve policy makers had a prolonged debate about the prospects of a pickup in inflation and slowing the path of future interest rate rises if it did not, according to the minutes of the US central bank’s last policy meeting last Sept. 19-20 released on Wednesday.

The readout of the meeting, at which the Fed announced it would begin this month to reduce its large bond portfolio mostly amassed following the financial crisis and unanimously voted to hold rates steady, also showed that officials remained mostly sanguine about the economic impact of recent hurricanes.

Nevertheless, many policy makers still felt that another rate increase this year “was likely to be warranted,” the Fed said.

The call to not lose faith in gradual rate rises was echoed on Wednesday by two Fed policy makers.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George urged her colleagues to be less fixated on the 2% inflation target and argued further rate hikes are necessary to ward off unwanted inflationary pressures. Likewise, the San Francisco Fed’s John Williams said that low unemployment also made him believe inflation was likely to move back to the Fed’s target.

Counters were mostly positive. Property surged 1.43% or 55.14 points to 3,912.10; industrials climbed 0.80% or 88.58 points to 11,056.06; holding firms went up 0.59% or 50.80 points to 8,637.95; and mining and oil gained 0.41% or 57.01 points to 13,790.65.

Meanwhile, services declined 0.98% or 17 points to 1,712.76 and financials dropped 0.10% or 2.05 points to 2,025.62.

Despite the PSEi’s new high, market breadth was still negative as decliners trumped advancers at 122 to 82, while 48 issues remained unchanged.

Value turnover declined Thursday to P8.21 billion from P11.63 billion as 3 billion shares changed hands.

Foreigners turned buyers with net purchases worth P247.24 million, reversing Wednesday’s net selling worth P1.3 billion. — J.C. Lim with Reuters