MANILA, Philippines - Philippine shares snapped a three-day winning streak, succumbing to a regional downturn after China cut its 2015 growth target.
China on Thursday said it is aiming to grow its economy by 7 percent this year, below 2014's 7.5 percent goal. This is the country's lowest target in 15 years.
The PSE index fell nearly 0.4 percent to close at 7,819.04.
One of the day's biggest losers was Manila Water, whose shares plunged to as much as 13.3 percent. Manila Water shares closed 10 percent lower at P26.80.
Analysts say Manila Water, partly owned by Ayala Corp., was hit by market speculation that it lost an arbitration case for a rate hike petition.
Manila Water spokesperson Jeric Sevilla said no decision has been issued on the arbitration case.
The news also caused worries for Maynilad's own rate hike. Maynilad's owners Metro Pacific Investments and DMCI Holdings also traded lower.
At the foreign exchange market, the peso weakened to P44.12 against the US dollar.
HK, Shanghai down on China target
Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Shanghai markets sank in Asian trade Thursday after China set tepid 2015 economic and trade growth targets, while the euro fell to 11-year lows ahead of a key European Central Bank meeting.
Wall Street provided a negative lead again despite an upbeat report on the state of the US economy and another round of healthy private-sector jobs growth.
Hong Kong sank 1.11 percent, or 272.43 points to 24,193.04 and Shanghai lost 0.95 percent, or 31.05 points, to 3,248.48.
Sydney ended flat, edging up 2.57 points to 5,904.16 and Seoul was also virtually unchanged, nudging up 0.09 points to 1,998.38. Tokyo added 0.26 percent, or 48.24 points, to close at 18,751.84.
China's National People's Congress, the rubber-stamp legislature, opened with Premier Li Keqiang setting a growth target for this year of "approximately seven percent", which would be the slowest in 25 years.
The goal, which comes after a 7.4 percent rise in 2014, also comes as authorities look to set the world's number two economy on a more sustainable path after decades of breakneck growth.
Authorities also cut their trade growth target for this year to "around six percent" after missing its 7.5 percent goal in 2014 for the third consecutive year.
Over the past several months a slew of data has indicated a slowdown in the economy, including on manufacturing, inflation and trade.
In a work report, Li said China had been hit as the global economy faced headwinds, adding: "Downward pressure on China's economy has continued to mount, and we have faced an array of interwoven difficulties and challenges."
Traders seemed to be unimpressed with news that China will link up the Shenzhen and Hong Kong stock exchanges on a trial basis as part of its financial sector reform. However, Shenzhen's composite index rose 0.27 percent, or 4.53 points, to 1,677.77.
The move follows a similar scheme between Hong Kong and Shanghai that started in November. However, while officials trumpeted that as opening up China's closeted stock markets to the outside world, it has met with tepid demand in both cities.
Dollar-euro parity tipped
Regional investors are also keeping an eye on Europe, where the ECB will outline details of its bond-buying programme -- known as quantitative easing (QE) -- which is aimed at kickstarting the eurozone economy and fending off deflation.
The euro has suffered heavy selling as bank president Mario Draghi prepares to unveil the plan for the 60-billion-euros-a-month scheme.
The single currency fell at one point to $1.1028 Thursday, its lowest level since September 2003, before recovering marginally to $1.1058. That compared with $1.1080 late Wednesday in New York.
It was also at 132.44 yen compared with 132.63 yen in New York and much lower than 133.68 yen earlier Wednesday in Asia.
"The combination of deposit rates negative and QE is a very potent one, so it's very euro negative," Robin Brooks, chief currency strategist at Goldman Sachs, told Bloomberg news in Sydney.
"We have in our forecasts a very pronounced euro downswing, which is probably the most dollar-bullish forecast in all of our forecasts."
He added that the bank saw the dollar-euro reaching parity by the end of next year before the single currency falls further to 90 US cents by the end of 2017.
The dollar fetched 119.83 yen against 119.70 yen in US trade.
US markets ended lower for a second-straight session as dealers brushed off the Federal Reserve report showing the economy expanding moderately while payrolls company ADP said private firms hired more than 200,000 in February.
The Dow fell 0.58 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.44 percent and the Nasdaq eased 0.26 percent.
On oil markets US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for April delivery was up 12 cents to $51.65 and Brent crude for April down 21 cents at $60.34.
Gold fetched $1,201.68 against $1,204.12 late Wednesday. - With reports from ANC, Reuters and Agence France-Presse