By Arra B. Francia, Reporter

AFTER days of flirting with the 9,000 level, the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) finally broke past this mark to reach its eighth record high for 2018, fueled by optimism on the positive economic figures released this week.

The main index pocketed gains of 0.47% or 42.03 points to finish at 9,041.20 on Friday. The broader all-shares index also increased 0.33% or 17.05 points to 5,262.30.

This week, the PSEi twice closed less than a point short of the 9,000 mark, albeit setting two new record highs.

In a phone interview, A&A Securities, Inc. analyst Jeng T. Calma noted the stock market had started the year very strong, and the momentum continued this week with the release of positive economic news.

The Philippine Statistics Authority on Tuesday announced the Philippine economy expanded by 6.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017, for a full-year result of 6.7%. This is within the government’s official target of 6.5-7.5%, although slightly slower than 2016’s 6.9%.

Eagle Equities, Inc. research analyst Christopher John Mangun also attributed the market’s bullish performance to the economy’s expansion, which fell within analysts’ expectations.

“This week I said we will be testing the 9,000 level. Overall, GDP number came in, there weren’t any surprises. Target was within from 6.5 to 6.7%, so overall the market’s trading within momentum,” Mr. Mangun said by phone.

Foreigners however turned sellers for the day, posting net sales of P242.25 million, a reversal of Thursday’s P119.62-million purchases.

“We had less foreign buying due to Western markets being stronger. They’re focusing on their markets. For next week, if we don’t see stronger foreign net buying we may get a pullback. But overall I think we will be trading within this area in the weeks to come,” Mr. Mangun said.

The PSEi’s advance in the previous weeks was supported by foreign net purchases, with foreign investors lodging an eight-day buying streak from Jan. 12 to 23.

The market saw the sectors for holding firms, property, industrial, and services advance, while companies in the financials and mining and oil sectors generally declined.

Several brokerage houses have been predicting the market to end past the 9,000 mark by the end of 2018, although market corrections are expected.

Col Financial Group, Inc., for instance, said the PSEi may close the year at the 9,300 mark, while RCBC Securities, Inc. predicted the market to reach 9,500.