banking finance

SSS benefit, pension disbursements up

August 23, 2019

THE SOCIAL Security System (SSS) has released benefits and pensions worth P95.71 billion in the first six months to its 3.19 million members, with the bulk going to retirement funds.      In a statement on Tuesday, the state pension fund said it disbursed P55.7 billion worth of retirement benefits to 1.57 million pensioners from January to June, 8.6% higher than the P51.28 billion released in the same period last year.      Payouts for death claims by one million beneficiaries saw an increase of 4.8% to P28.63 billion in the first half from P27.32 billion a year ago.      Disbursements for disability and funeral benefits in the January-June period respectively totalled P3.59 billion, up 7.8% year-on-year, and P2.14 billion, up 9.7%, and went to 208,863 recipients.      Sickness benefits also climbed 14.9% to P1.51 billion in the first semester from the P1.32 billion logged in the same period last year, and went to 235,000 members.      SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Aurora C. Ignacio said in the statement that the growth in beneficiaries and claims may be attributed to the implementation of the Republic Act (RA) 11220 Expanded Maternity Leave Law in May and RA 11199 or the Social Security Act of 2018 signed into law last February.      RA 11220 increased the paid maternity leave to 105 days from 60 days, with an additional 15 days for solo mothers.      Meanwhile, RA 11199 adjusted SSS’ contribution rate to 12% from 11% and the monthly salary credits of its members to a minimum of P2,000 and P20,000 maximum.      “In the first half of 2019 alone, the number of beneficiaries and claims have already posted significant growth since the implementation of new laws and policies of the administration,” Ms. Ignacio said.      Meanwhile, total revenues of the state pension fund increased to P115.53 billion in the first half, up 20.9% from last year’s P95.55 billion, SSS said in the statement.      Broken down, contribution collections and investments and other income stood at P99.08 billion and P16.45 billion, respectively, in the first half, which SSS said climbed due to the higher contribution rate and monthly salary credit.      “Further, our investment and other income bounced back this period driven by strong and favorable market conditions,” Ms. Ignacio added.      SSS’ assets stood at P542.27 billion at end-June, 6% higher than the P511.47 billion booked in the comparable year-ago period.      “With our strong financial performance this semester, we are hoping to further strengthen the fund and ensure the continued service and providing for more and more members in the future until perpetuity,” Ms. Ignacio said.

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BSP posts P29.88-B net income in H1

August 23, 2019

THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) had a net income of P29.88 billion in the first six months of 2019, almost unchanged from same time last year of P29.45 billion, partly due to modest foreign exchange (FX) rate gains.      The BSP registered FX rate gains – which are realized gains from FX rate fluctuations – of P9 billion end-June this year versus P21.51 billion same period in 2018.      Based on the BSP’s latest unaudited statement of income and expense, revenues were up significantly by 76.2 percent year-on-year to P65.32 billion from P37.08 billion, while expenses also increased by 42.3 percent to P41.43 billion from P29.12 billion.      Interest income from its international reserves and domestic securities, for the first six months, was up by 48.3 percent to P53.22 billion from P35.88 billion end-June 2018. Miscellaneous income which includes trading gains, fees, penalties and other operating income, increased to P12.10 billion from just P1.19 billion last year.      Interest expenses for the first six months also went up by 65 percent to P21.49 billion from P13.02 billion. Other expenses totaled P19.94 billion which was also higher by 23.85 percent from the previous year’s P16.10 billion.      As of end-June, the BSP’s assets reached P5.107 trillion, up 8.1 percent from P4.726 trillion same time in 2018. Total liabilities also rose by 7.9 percent year-on-year to P4.963 trillion from P4.616 trillion.      Last year, the BSP reported a net income of P39.85 billion which was higher by 69.50 percent from P23.51 billion in 2017. Its FX rate gains was at P53.13 billion from only P15.48 billion in 2017. The central bank’s amended law or Republic Act 11211 (“An Act Amending Republic Act No. 7653, Otherwise Known as the ‘New Central Bank Act’, and for Other Purposes”) has allowed the BSP to increase its capitalization by P150 billion, or from P50 billion to P200 billion. This will be funded solely from the declared dividends of the BSP.

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Economists forecast at least 25 bps cut in BSP rates

August 12, 2019

ECONOMISTS are expecting at least a 25 basis point cut in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) key rates on Thursday on the back of slower inflation in July 2019.      The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday reported that rate of price increases decelerated anew to 2.4 percent, reminiscent of the July 2017 figure, from last June’s 2.7 percent, thanks to the lower annual rate registered by the heavily-weighted food index.      Average inflation to date is 3.3 percent while inflation rate in July 2018 is higher at 5.7 percent.      Also, core inflation, which excludes volatiles food and oil items registered slower rate of 3.2 percent from month-ago’s 3.3 percent, resulting to an average of 3.6 percent to date.      Standard Chartered Bank Asia economist Chidu Narayanan, in a report, said the slowdown of domestic inflation rate provides the BSP’s policy-making Monetary Board (MB) a leeway to slash the central bank’s key policy rates when it meets on Thursday, August 8.      “Today’s lower inflation, combined with a likely lower Q2 GDP growth of 5.9 percent, may cause BSP to deliver a 25bps rate cut when it meets on Thursday. We expect another 50bps from BSP this year, following the likely 25bps cut later this week,” he said.       The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is scheduled to report the domestic economy’s second quarter performance, as measured by gross domestic product (GPD), on Thursday.      In the first three months this year, the domestic economy posted a slowdown to 5.6 percent from quarter-ago’s 6.3 percent, which economic managers pointed to the impact of the delay in the approval of this year’s national budget.      Authorities said the government was not able to spend as programmed because spending was hampered by the limitations under the re-enacted budget.      Economic managers, however, assured the public that a spending catch-up plan has been put in place to lift government spending and, in turn, help boost domestic growth.      With regards to the inflation rate, Narayanan forecasts this to fall below two percent in August to September and this, he said, is seen to bring average inflation this year to about 2.7 percent.      “A combination of lower food prices, lower oil prices, and a high base effect will help contain inflation,” he said.      The slowdown in inflation rate, which peaked at 6.7 percent in September and October last year, was the driving force behind the 25 basis points reduction the BSP rates last May.      The MB also boosted domestic liquidity through the total of 200 basis points slash in major banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) from May to July this year. Authorities said a 100 basis points cut in RRR releases about P90 billion into the system.      Despite these cuts, Narayanan said “monetary conditions in the Philippines continue to remain tight.”      He said the bank’s Monetary Conditions Index (MCI) for the Philippines “indicates conditions are still at their tightest in three years on a stronger REER (real effective exchange rate), higher real interest rates and softer credit growth.”      “The likely further drop in inflation below 2 percent is likely to cause conditions to tighten much further,” he added.      Relatively, ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Mapa, in a report, said deceleration of inflation last July increased expectations for a rate cut on Thursday, especially following the cut in the Federal Reserve’s key rates last week.      He cited Philippine monetary officials’ statement that they remain data-dependent vis-à-vis their policy decisions but also noted that BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno has hinted of additional 50 basis rate cut for the remaining months of the year after last May’s reduction.      “We believe we will see at least a 25 bps rate cut (with door open for 50 bps) all the more given that 2Q GDP is likely to settle below the six percent handle,” he added.      ANZ Research, in its report, said effects of elevated inflation rate last year along with weaker demand pressures may result in the decline of inflation below two percent in the next few months.      “Today’s data support the view that inflation remains on a clear downtrend and so we expect the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to cut its policy rate by 25bps at its meeting this Thursday,” it added.      Also, UnionBank chief economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, in his report, said the inflation outturn last July is a big factor in the possible cut in the BSP’s key rates this week. “This, however, will also depend on Q2 output results,” he said, projecting second quarter GDP to be around 5.9 percent. (PNA)

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Landbank eyes 15% annual growth for agricultural loans

August 12, 2019

OFFICIALS of state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) are targeting to grow agriculture-focused loans by 15 percent annually to help about three million farmers by the end of the Duterte administration in 2022.      Landbank President and CEO Cecilia Borromeo said they target agriculture loans to reach P265 billion by 2020, up from the P231.25 billion target this year, wherein they target to help one million farmers.      “It’s a consistent growth so by 2022, the portfolio of the bank to the agriculture sector will reached P350 billion and we should be able to assist at least three million farmers by then,” she said.      This, as President Rodrigo Duterte directed Landbank officials to extend more aid to farmers since this is among the bank’s mandate.      Borromeo said they currently have 44 lending centers around the country and they aim to increase this to 50 centers by 2020.      She explained that the bank’s Board of Directors has approved the opening of new lending centers in Lanao del Norte, Quirino Province and in Antique.      She stressed that the bank is very compliant with the Agri-Agra law, with 27 percent of the total loans amounting to P222 billion currently allocated to the agriculture sector.      “We will, at the very least, maintain that share in the agriculture sector. It can be more depending on the economy,” she said.      Under Agri-Agra law, banks are required to allocate 10 percent of their funds for agrarian reform credit (Agra) and 15 percent for other agricultural credit (Agri).      The Landbank chief added that “if there will be a slowdown in other sectors, then the share of the agriculture sectors will increase.”      In the first half of the year, the bank extended P744.5 billion worth of loans to the priority sector, about 93.1 percent of total loans.      Loans extended to small farmers amounted to 42.31 billion, while P14 billion was extended to small fishers and their associations.      Loans extended for the support of the agriculture and fisheries sector totaled to P177.32 billion while loans that support the national government’s priority programs, including infrastructure projects, reached P524.86 billion. (PNA)

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Economists forecast at least 25 bps cut in BSP rates

August 9, 2019

ECONOMISTS are expecting at least a 25 basis point cut in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) key rates on Thursday on the back of slower inflation in July 2019.      The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday reported that rate of price increases decelerated anew to 2.4 percent, reminiscent of the July 2017 figure, from last June’s 2.7 percent, thanks to the lower annual rate registered by the heavily-weighted food index.      Average inflation to date is 3.3 percent while inflation rate in July 2018 is higher at 5.7 percent.      Also, core inflation, which excludes volatiles food and oil items registered slower rate of 3.2 percent from month-ago’s 3.3 percent, resulting to an average of 3.6 percent to date.      Standard Chartered Bank Asia economist Chidu Narayanan, in a report, said the slowdown of domestic inflation rate provides the BSP’s policy-making Monetary Board (MB) a leeway to slash the central bank’s key policy rates when it meets on Thursday, August 8.      “Today’s lower inflation, combined with a likely lower Q2 GDP growth of 5.9 percent, may cause BSP to deliver a 25bps rate cut when it meets on Thursday. We expect another 50bps from BSP this year, following the likely 25bps cut later this week,” he said.       The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is scheduled to report the domestic economy’s second quarter performance, as measured by gross domestic product (GPD), on Thursday.      In the first three months this year, the domestic economy posted a slowdown to 5.6 percent from quarter-ago’s 6.3 percent, which economic managers pointed to the impact of the delay in the approval of this year’s national budget.      Authorities said the government was not able to spend as programmed because spending was hampered by the limitations under the re-enacted budget.      Economic managers, however, assured the public that a spending catch-up plan has been put in place to lift government spending and, in turn, help boost domestic growth.      With regards to the inflation rate, Narayanan forecasts this to fall below two percent in August to September and this, he said, is seen to bring average inflation this year to about 2.7 percent.      “A combination of lower food prices, lower oil prices, and a high base effect will help contain inflation,” he said.      The slowdown in inflation rate, which peaked at 6.7 percent in September and October last year, was the driving force behind the 25 basis points reduction the BSP rates last May.      The MB also boosted domestic liquidity through the total of 200 basis points slash in major banks’ reserve requirement ratio (RRR) from May to July this year.      Authorities said a 100 basis points cut in RRR releases about PHP90 billion into the system.      Despite these cuts, Narayanan said “monetary conditions in the Philippines continue to remain tight.”      He said the bank’s Monetary Conditions Index (MCI) for the Philippines “indicates conditions are still at their tightest in three years on a stronger REER (real effective exchange rate), higher real interest rates and softer credit growth.”      “The likely further drop in inflation below 2 percent is likely to cause conditions to tighten much further,” he added.      Relatively, ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Mapa, in a report, said deceleration of inflation last July increased expectations for a rate cut on Thursday, especially following the cut in the Federal Reserve’s key rates last week.      He cited Philippine monetary officials’ statement that they remain data-dependent vis-à-vis their policy decisions but also noted that BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno has hinted of additional 50 basis rate cut for the remaining months of the year after last May’s reduction.      “We believe we will see at least a 25 bps rate cut (with door open for 50 bps) all the more given that 2Q GDP is likely to settle below the six percent handle,” he added.      ANZ Research, in its report, said effects of elevated inflation rate last year along with weaker demand pressures may result in the decline of inflation below two percent in the next few months.      “Today’s data support the view that inflation remains on a clear downtrend and so we expect the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to cut its policy rate by 25bps at its meeting this Thursday,” it added.      Also, UnionBank chief economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion, in his report, said the inflation outturn last July is a big factor in the possible cut in the BSP’s key rates this week.      “This, however, will also depend on Q2 output results,” he said, projecting second quarter GDP to be around 5.9 percent. (PNA)

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SSS sickness benefits climb

August 9, 2019

THE SOCIAL Security System’s (SSS) disbursements of sickness benefits reached P984.42 million in the first four months, higher than the P875.42 million released in the same period in 2018.      In a statement on Sunday, the state pension fund said it saw a P109-million year-on-year climb in sickness benefit disbursements in the January-April period.      Meanwhile, the number of beneficiaries of sickness benefit in the four months ended April climbed to 155,856 members from the 145,370 beneficiaries recorded in the same period in 2018.      SSS released P913.88 million in sickness benefits under the social security program between January and April, up 9.5% from P834.22 million disbursed in the same period in 2018.      Some P70.54 million was also paid out for sickness benefits for work-related sickness and injuries under the Employee’s Compensation Program, 71.3% higher than P41.19 million released year-on-year.      “A qualified member under the sickness benefit program receives a daily cash allowance for the number of days he is unable to work due to sickness or injury,” SSS said.      To qualify for sickness benefit, a member must have been unable to work due to an illness for at least four days, whether confined at home or in a hospital. The member must have at least three monthly contributions within the 12-month period before the semester of illness.      A member can receive a maximum of 120 days in sickness benefit in one calendar year. If the member is still not capable of working after this period, the worker must report to the SSS to determine qualification for disability benefit.      “SSS aims to provide meaningful social protection to its members through the benefits that we provide and the programs that we continuously develop,” SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Aurora C. Ignacio said in the statement.      “We hope that our members view the contribution rate increase as bigger savings for their future, especially in times of need,” she added.

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