Data guru Bela Stantic reveals Donald Trump is on track to win again


A data scientist who correctly predicted Donald Trump’s shock victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 says the US President is currently on track to win again.

Professor Bela Stantic is the founder and director of Griffith University’s Big Data and Smart Analytics Lab, where he analyses social media data and sentiment to predict voters’ behaviour.

In the past, those predictions have been extraordinarily accurate.

Four years ago, Prof Stantic successfully picked the winner in 49 of the 50 American states. His lab also nailed the result of both the 2016 Brexit referendum and our own federal election last year.

In all three cases, public opinion polling pointed to the opposite result.

RELATED: Data guru correctly predicts Scott Morrison’s victory

At the moment, the polls show Mr Trump trailing his opponent, Joe Biden, by an average of 6.2 per cent at the national level. They’re a bit closer in the key battleground states, where Mr Biden leads by 3.9 per cent.

It looks like a comfortable lead for the Democratic Party’s nominee. But, just like Ms Clinton’s lead four years ago, it could be a mirage.

RELATED: Trump’s polls are terrible, but can they be trusted?

Prof Stantic recently conducted a preliminary, draft analysis of the upcoming US election. His lab’s complete analysis, along with a final prediction of the result, will come closer to polling day on November 3.

“It is obvious again that Trump will lose the popular vote,” he told news.com.au.

“However, he’s tracking really well in the crucial states. Florida is a coin toss, but he’s slightly ahead for me. And Minnesota and Pennsylvania as well. And then Texas, he will win easily.

“So then that gives him an edge to get about 270, 280 electoral votes.

“It is maybe early, but I can tell you that the trend we identified in advance last time is holding.”

So, according to that analysis, we are heading for an electoral map which looks something like this.

RELATED: How America’s presidential election system works

In other words, the race is close – pretty much neck-and-neck – but Mr Trump is once again on course to lose the popular vote while winning the decisive electoral vote.

About 2.9 million more Americans cast ballots for Ms Clinton than for Mr Trump in 2016. However, the President’s support was distributed more efficiently.

While the Democrat racked up huge margins in populous but uncompetitive states like California and New York, Mr Trump managed to scrape to relatively narrow victories in the states that actually mattered, such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

That gave him a 304-227 edge in the Electoral College, comfortably above the winning threshold of 270.

Prof Stantic said the 2020 election was, broadly speaking, the same sort of race.

“It’s really a coin toss. I think Florida, at the moment, is a coin toss, but Trump is just ahead,” he said.

But his draft analysis dug up one particularly important – and perhaps surprising – difference between 2016 and 2020.

“I find that this time it is more polarised than last time,” Prof Stantic said.

He reached that conclusion by analysing the comments on Mr Biden’s social media posts.

“People reacted so harshly against Biden. It was 30,000-something comments, and all strongly against him,” he said.

“They are saying that he cannot be trusted, that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. ‘At least Trump, what he says, he thinks.’ Comments along these lines.

“There was not much support for Biden.”

This is an interesting wrinkle, because the conventional wisdom you often hear from political experts – and occasionally, from self-important journalists – is that Ms Clinton was a more polarising figure than Mr Biden is.

Four years ago, Mr Trump and Ms Clinton both had unusually high disapproval ratings in the polls. This time, Mr Biden’s favourability rating is pretty much split down the middle.

“I feel they hate him more than Hillary,” Prof Stantic said.

He pointed out that, as potentially the first female president, Ms Clinton could at least rely on enthusiastic support from women.

“Why would you vote for someone who has issues expressing himself, and doesn’t know what he’s saying? That is what people – when I looked at the topics of discussion, what is dominating,” he said.

“If it were a better candidate (than Biden), Trump would lose easily.”

RELATED: Trump uses misleading map to overstate his support

Prof Stantic’s method is not infallible. It did, for instance, get the result of Australia’s same-sex marriage plebiscite wrong, for reasons he explained in detail afterwards.

But he says his lab’s analysis is more reliable than opinion polling, because it involves a significantly larger sample size.

“I think the polls are volatile because their sample size is very small. They have a thousand people, and it depends on who you interview,” he said.

“I’m talking about millions of posts. Last month, I think I had 800,000 posts in one day.

“It’s not just about these 800,000, but it’s also that some posts have 20,000-30,000 likes.”

People also tend to be more honest when expressing their opinions on social media than when a pollster quizzes them.

And the peculiar nature of America’s system, which hinges on the candidates winning states (rather than, say, seats like in Australia), helps make Prof Stantic’s job simpler, because the data allows him to pinpoint exactly which state people will be voting in.

“Australia, it’s a bit hard because of seats and their locations. The US election, it’s easier to predict,” he said.

“Users put the state in their location when they open their accounts.

“It’s much easier to identify a location, and then everything else is pure mathematics.”

Who do you think will win the US election? Continue the conversation on Twitter: @SamClench





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Unemployment data shows 100,000 new jobs created between July and August 2020 despite coronavirus


When the pandemic struck back in March, Christina Vetta was working as a social media manager for an agency.

The company started to cut back so she decided to use the pandemic as a launch pad to start her own business.

“I basically decided to back myself and I resigned from my role and started my own social media agency,” Ms Vetta said.

The 37-year-old now runs her business “Social Hills” from her home in inner-city Surry Hills.

“Fast forward five months down the line and I’ve got a really good portfolio. I am very close to earning what I was earning at the agency,” she said.

Ms Vetta is among New South Wales workers who have managed to pivot and remain employed, despite more than 1 million Australians losing their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Official figures released on Thursday revealed a surprising bounce-back in employment, with more than 100,000 new jobs created around the country in the past month.

The official unemployment rate fell to 6.8 per cent in August, down from 7.5 per cent in July.

In NSW unemployment fell from 7.2 per cent to 6.7 per cent.

Only Victoria — where a second wave has caused widespread lockdowns — and Tasmania recorded higher unemployment between July and August.

But with 3.5 million people on JobKeeper, Sue-Lin Ong, Chief Economist at RBC Capital Markets, said it may be March — when the payment is scheduled to end — before the true number of people out of work becomes clear.

“There’s no doubt the JobKeeper program is flattering the official unemployment rate,” she said.

But she said the latest figures did give some cause for optimism.

“Outside of Victoria, there’s clearly some recovery going on in the broader labour market.”

For some, the pandemic has forced a career change.

Jen Rodgers, 34, has been working in hospitality since leaving school.

She loves the industry and at the start of the pandemic was working as the assistant manager of a cafe in North Richmond in the Hawkesbury.

Jen Rodgers with her daughter Emma, 4, is retraining as a primary school teacher.(Supplied)

But when her hours were reduced, it forced a rethink.

“I had a huge moment of having to reassess everything and just realised I had to find a different career path that was going to support me and my family better in the long run,” she said.

She’s now studying part-time to become a primary school teacher.

“I can honestly say if COVID hadn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have made the move,” she said.

Finding another job was ‘really quick’

Danielle Martin, 45, from Wollongong, has also made a career change, moving from a job in disability employment services to become a careers coach with a rehab company.

“Once the pandemic hit, all of a sudden you had pilots looking for jobs, you had restaurant managers, very skilled, experienced people, so my job became very difficult,” she said.

When her company announced it was restructuring due to COVID, Ms Martin would have had to take on a new position, with a pay cut of $11,400.

The day after, she sent off two job applications and one company got back to her straight away.

“I had a phone interview that Friday, a face to face Zoom interview the next Tuesday and I was offered the job on the Thursday so it was really quick,” she said.

She hasn’t look back since.

“I feel my strengths are coming out and I’m being challenged and I’m rising to it. It’s made me feel valued, I guess,” she said.

Ms Vetta’s new venture has been so successful she’s even taken on a part-time worker.

She said in her case the pandemic has been a catalyst for change.

“2020 has been the biggest opportunity and the most exciting time for me.”



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Disability providers fail to correctly report deaths to the NDIS, data shows


Why are disability providers failing to report deaths — and why is the NDIS letting them off scot free?

Georgi Hadden’s complaint was closed when she left her providers. (Image: supplied)

Disability service providers have delayed reporting the deaths of hundreds of people with disabilities to the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, the sector’s troubled watchdog, new data shows.

The NDIS watchdog receives reports of 11 deaths a week on average — but nearly 20% aren’t reported for more than five days.  

Despite this, no providers were fined for not reporting the death in a timely manner as required by the commission.  





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Data trusts could secure our right to privacy


Data trusts could help to restore the balance between privacy and effective governance, writes Paul Budde.

I RECENTLY followed a webinar session organised by the University of Queensland on the factory of the future. Smart or not, the future will still need factories to make the stuff we humans use every day. One of the questions that were discussed included: “how will existing production models cope with the staggering and ongoing rate of digital disruption and advanced capabilities?”

Very rapidly, the discussion went into the necessity of good quality data to quickly react to the transformative changes needed in this the case regarding manufacturing. COVID-19 was mentioned as perhaps one of the most disruptive events ever happening in our lifetime. The term “pivoting” was used here.

What this means is the companies will have to be able to rapidly react to changes and pivot their organisations to new opportunities and to address the challenges they face. Modern robots and AI software provide the technologies that can make this happen. But that depends on access to good quality data.

Two weeks ago, I wrote of the enormous changes in telehealth, expressing the hope that the Government will use its leadership to build on the enormous success of these services during the pandemic. They will only be able to do this if they gather, analyse and use the right data. But as we see with the COVID-19 app, people are very wary of providing their data, out of a fear that the government might misuse it. 

We are increasingly facing a key problem for the transformations that our economies and societies need and the use of data is critical in these processes. People have increasingly become more sceptical of what the industry calls “big data”. We see both governments and the digital companies creating a surveillance state and people are resisting this.

At the same time, we see the massive increase in cyber warfare where foreign agents and criminals are providing fake or wrong data to influence politics, business and society with the aim to disrupt, create fear, uncertainty and doubt.

These bodies do get what they want as governments now go overboard with putting restrictions on the free flow of information that is needed to support a values-based, democratic society.

Data is caught in the middle of this. It has become the critical conduit to run our economies and societies, it is taking on the same role as oil and electricity, it is rapidly becoming a national utility.

The digital and sharing economy is unstoppable

To allow data to take up that role we do need to radically change the way data is gathered, analysed and used. This has led to the development of the concept of data trusts. This takes the concept of a legal trust and applies it to data.

As in a normal trust, the data trust holds something and the trustee makes decisions about its use. It is a legal structure that provides independent stewardship of data for the benefit of people, both in a social and in an economic sense. Data trusts are specifically very useful when sensitive data is involved.

It is important to see the incredibly fast-moving digital revolution that is unfolding before our eyes, not as a technology event but as an event in our human evolution. So, we do need both STEM and humanities involved in this process.

Ethics is increasingly becoming more and more important to guide the human face of this. For that reason, it is sad that the government has downgraded the role of humanities studies in our university system. Data trusts need to be seen in that context.

In the case for example of Covid-19, we could develop “data trusts for good”. This could be the most effective way to overcome the lack of sufficient data to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, without creating a surveillance state in the process.

TikTok furore exposes data privacy hypocrisy in Australia and the U.S.

Data trusts can inform COVID-19 recovery activities of all types and be used to train AI and algorithms in a way that ensures proprietary and personal data is protected and deleted after a certain point.

The Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center is one of the leading organisations working on policies and strategies aimed at balancing data privacy against utility within the bounds of the social contracts of liberal democracies. They acknowledge a need to establish a public trust that assists nations recovering from the pandemic.

They see COVID-19 as a key opportunity to launch such a concept. Developing a data trust that will assist nations recovering from the pandemic. If this framework could legislate accountability, be designed for privacy, and operate with transparency, it could provide the solutions needed to arrive at a “new normal”.

The concept of data trusts would also be ideal for smart cities. Cities are facing the same issues with their data collection and an independent data trust, overseen by parties that include citizen representation, could greatly address the reluctance of people providing personal data for the common good.

Once we have some of these data trusts up and running we can learn from them and if successful we can use them to build up trust again with those government and commercial organisations who will put their data in such a trust.

As we are facing increasingly more complex problems there is no question about the fact that we need data, AI, machine learning and algorithms as tools to manage our cities, companies, countries and indeed our world. Rather than procrastinating and resisting the economic and social transformations that are needed, governments should take a leadership role and start working on solutions.

Paul Budde is an Independent Australia columnist and managing director of Paul Budde Consulting, an independent telecommunications research and consultancy organisation. You can follow Paul on Twitter @PaulBudde.

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Draft legislation proposed by Federal Government would allow your personal data to be shared between government agencies


If it sometimes seems like different arms of the government don’t talk to each other, it might be because they can’t.

There are a raft of laws covering departments, agencies and other government bodies that mean they can’t share the data they collect about you.

It’s designed to protect your privacy, but the Federal Government thinks it’s outdated and has drafted legislation to allow more data-sharing.

What will change?

The Data Availability and Transparency Bill would override the different laws and provisions covering data collected by government bodies.

Instead, the National Data Commissioner would oversee a regime to allows data-sharing across the public sector, provided various protections are kept in place.

That would include the likes of Centrelink, the Australian Tax Office, the Department of Home Affairs Department and the Bureau of Statistics, as well as bodies such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

But it could also see public sector information shared with other “accredited” bodies, including universities, think-tanks, businesses and not-for-profit groups.

Under what circumstances could data about me be shared?

Government departments and agencies would only be able to share data for three purposes: to deliver government services, to help develop government policies, and for research and development.

The bill specifically excludes sharing information for the purposes of law enforcement, compliance, national security and targeted commercial marketing.

The Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert says it will allow government agencies to streamline their services and cut down on duplication.

“If you apply for a Disability Support Pension, we will ask you a whole range of questions — some of them quite intrusive and difficult, for obvious reasons.”

“And then we’ll do exactly the same thing if you are applying for NDIS and then we’ll do the same thing when you apply for the age pension.”

Sounds good, what’s the problem?

Well, there’s not a lot of trust in government departments and agencies to handle sensitive personal data.

Privacy advocates have pointed to a blunder by the Health Department in 2016 that meant personal Medicare information could be extracted from data published online as an example of what could go wrong.

They also point to the growing number of government agencies allowed to access people’s metadata as evidence privacy protections aren’t always as strong as they seem.

Under existing legislation, different government agencies are restricted in how they share your information with one another(Pixabay: valelopardo)

So, what protections would there be for personal information in this case?

Each of the organisations involved would be responsible for having strong privacy safeguards for personal information and report any breaches.

They’d be expected to provide specific data to other departments and agencies, not just hand over all their information.

There are fines and even jail terms for people who misuse personal data.

Digital rights advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) is concerned there is no way for individuals to object or appeal decisions to share data across the public sector.

There’s also no provision for judicial review, with the regime to be overseen by the independent National Data Commissioner.

EFA board member Justin Warren suggests the Federal Government follow up an Australian Law Reform Commission recommendation to establish a tort of privacy, which would allow someone to seek civil damages if their privacy is breached.

“That would go a long way to providing us with some recourse — and some deterrence — for entities that don’t do this (privacy protection) well.”

What if I don’t want data about me to be shared?

There’s not much you can do, if this becomes law.

The Federal Government considered the idea of consent when consulting on the issue before drafting the legislation.

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert has told the ABC consent is implied when someone uses a government service.

“If an Australian wants a service by a government, they obviously have to consent to having that service delivered to them,” he said.

“If they don’t want a service (from) government, they don’t have to.”

The government has data about me. What if I want data from the government?

There’s nothing in this legislation that gives Australians more access to government data.

“They want to share data between government entities about citizens, what about the other way?” EFA’s Justin Warren asks.

“Data about individuals — you and me — is quite sensitive and has lots of privacy implication,” he said.

“But there is lots of data about government that could be made more available that doesn’t have any of the same safety or security problems that data about individuals does.”

He believes the Government should be focusing on sharing the non-personal data, such as making public how much money is spent on social security every week, or publishing more frequent inflation data.

The Federal Government will be taking feedback on the draft law for the next eight weeks and hopes to introduce it to parliament early next year.



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Release of COVID-19 infection data in aged care – 16 News


The Commonwealth Government today releases a data snapshot of residential aged care facilities which have recorded COVID-19 infections.

The report provides greater transparency for residents and their families around the situation in aged care facilities.

It will complement the existing reporting of COVID-19 in Australia, including the aged care totals reported daily.

The data includes all aged care facilities where there has been more than one case in either a staff member or resident.
It shows that of the 2,706 aged care facilities in Australia, 213 – or 8 per cent – have had cases of COVID-19.

The data does not include details on facilities that have had a single case – there are 98 of these facilities across the country.

The report compares the current impact of COVID-19 in residential aged care to previous influenza outbreaks and demonstrates how Australia is performing internationally.

Supports described in the report include testing, workforce and personal protective equipment support to help the aged care sector with its response to this pandemic.

The Morrison Government has continued to ensure quality of care for senior Australians remains a priority during the pandemic. It is why more than $1.5 billion to date has been invested.

The report will be updated weekly and can be found here.



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Mueller’s Team Members ‘Accidentally’ Wiped Phones Clean of Data



Justice Department records obtained and published by Judicial Watch on Friday show that senior members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team repeatedly and “accidentally” wiped data off phones assigned to them, according to the conservative watchdog group.

Judicial Watched obtained 87 pages from the DOJ in response to a September 2019 Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the DOJ and the FBI for a December 17, 2018, request for:

  • All records related to the hardware, software and contents of mobile phones issued to FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their use while they served on the investigative team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller;
  • All records of communication (whether on government or non-.gov email accounts and whether using real names or aliases), with FBI officials relating to the hardware, software and contents of mobile phones issued to FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their use while they served on the investigative team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

According to the records Judicial Watch received, 27 phones used by members of the Special Counsel team were reported wiped clean of all data prior to a review by the Special Counsel of phones used by Mueller’s teams for records-preservation purposes.

Twenty of those phones were reported wiped clean of data due to “accidental wipe,” often from entering the wrong password too many times.

Several other phones were wiped after they were placed in airplane mode and could not be unlocked because the password was allegedly forgotten, including two belonging to lead prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, and phones belonging to two of his deputies, Kyle Freeny and Rush Atkinson.

One phone was wiped clean without explanation.

Both phones used by Strzok and Page had been “restored to factory settings.”

Strzok and Page, who were engaged in an extramarital affair, both served on the Special Counsel team when it was stood up in May 2017, and left later that summer.

The DOJ inspector general investigating the FBI for potential bias first discovered a gap in text message data collection from between December 15, 2016, through May 17, 2017, from phones issued to Strzok and Page, and tried to recover those messages.

The IG also asked the Special Counsel’s office for phones that had been assigned to Strzok and Page. Strzok’s phone had already been “reset to factory settings” and “reconfigured for the new user to whom the device was issued,” and Page’s phone had already been reset but not reassigned.

According to the DOJ records, Page’s phone was first “not found.” Then after it was found and given to the IG, it had already been “restored to factory settings.”

A Special Counsel records officer who had reviewed Strzok’s phone upon his exit had written: “No substantive texts, notes or reminders.”

Justice Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement, “The pandemic of ‘wiped’ phones among the Mueller team requires a criminal investigation of this destruction of evidence and  potential obstruction of justice and other crimes.”

“The DOJ and FBI hid these records for nearly two years – which only adds to appearance of a cover-up,” he said.

 

Follow Breitbart News’s Kristina Wong on Twitter or on Facebook.





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Dollar edges higher on solid U.S. economic data



FILE PHOTO: A U.S. Dollar banknote is seen in this illustration taken May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

September 2, 2020

By Eimi Yamamitsu

TOKYO (Reuters) – The dollar bounced off two-year lows on Wednesday as U.S. data pointed to a firm manufacturing activity, while the euro retreated from its highest levels since 2018 on profit-taking.

Economic data published on Tuesday showed U.S. manufacturing activity accelerated to a nearly two-year high in August amid a surge in new orders, with the reading from the Institute for Supply Management highest level since November 2018.

The U.S. data followed similarly upbeat Chinese and European manufacturing indicators.

Mitsuo Imaizumi, chief FX strategist at Daiwa Securities, said an increase in pent-up demand, such as for cars, has contributed to the rise in the greenback.

Imaizumi however added that it is “unnecessary to see the data as entirely great,” as the ISM’s data also showed the labour market remained in contraction territory.

The dollar index <=USD> inched up 0.12% at 92.346, having hit its lowest since April 2018.

The greenback has been declining since last week, down about 1%, after the Federal Reserve announced it would focus more on average inflation and higher employment. With the Fed’s shift in policy having leeway to keep U.S. interest rates lower for longer, it has encouraged traders to sell the currency.

That view was reinforced on Tuesday as Fed Governor Lael Brainard said the central bank would need to roll out more stimulus to help the economy overcome the coronavirus and fulfil the Fed’s new pledge.

U.S. Treasury yields fell following the speech as additional stimulus would likely involve more aggressive bond-buying.

The euro benefited from the initial dollar sell-off, as it rose high as $1.2014 on Tuesday, its highest since May 2018.

The common currency later reversed those gains to sit at $1.19095.

Against the Japanese yen , the dollar was little changed at 105.75 yen.

Also supporting a rebound in the greenback, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday he would telephone House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about stalled coronavirus aid negotiations later in the day. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Senate Republicans are likely to bring up a targeted COVID-19 relief bill next week.

Among antipodean currencies, the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.73845, while the New Zealand dollar traded at $0.6764.

Elsewhere in the market, Sterling traded at 1.3422, just below last year’s high that followed the 2019 election of 1.3516.

The Chinese yuan was little changed, last up down 0.03% in offshore markets to 6.8266.

(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Sam Holmes)





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PSEi drops on manufacturing data, China issues


By Denise A. Valdez, Senior Reporter

THE MAIN INDEX continued to drop on Tuesday, marking its fourth straight day of decline, on lower local manufacturing data and geopolitical tensions involving China.

The 30-member Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) lost 84.94 points or 1.44% to close at 5,799.24, while the broader all shares index shaved off 33.32 points or 0.94% to end at 3,501.26.

The market was closed on Monday in observance of National Heroes’ Day.

“Last-minute profit taking extended the local bourse’s decline…. The pessimism in (Tuesday’s) trading can still be attributed to the worries over the local economy,” Philstocks Financial, Inc. Senior Research Analyst Japhet Louis O. Tantiangco said in a text message.

He said investors took cues from the release of August manufacturing data, which showed that factory activity in the country continued to fall for a sixth consecutive month.

“Our manufacturing figure somehow shows that our economy remains challenged due to our quarantine measures in place which were even tightened in some areas in Luzon last August,” Mr. Tantiangco said.

“Anti-China tensions” also influenced the downward pull of the PSEi, Regina Capital Development Corp. Head of Sales Luis A. Limlingan said in a mobile message. The Asian economic giant is currently in conflict with Australia, the United States and India, each for different reasons.

Tensions with Australia were caused by the detention of an Australian journalist who works as a television anchor in China, news wires reported Monday.

Meanwhile, friction with the United States was fanned by the announced crackdown on Chinese apps by Washington as told by Peter Navarro, US President Donald Trump’s trade adviser, to Fox Business.

Beijing’s dispute with India likewise continued after China called on the country to withdraw its troops that were allegedly crossing their shared border in the Himalayas illegally.

Back home, half of the sectoral indices ended the session with losses: holding firms fell 130.73 points or 2.14% to 5,969.17; services dropped 29.38 points or 1.98% to 1,453.55; and property slid 47.71 points or 1.76% to 2,662.89.

The three indices that gained were mining and oil, which rose 214.59 points or 3.57% to 6,219.66; industrials, which improved 57.43 points or 0.73% to 7,848.69; and financials, which picked up 7.43 points or 0.65% to 1,137.13.

Value turnover on Tuesday stood at P6.86 billion, down from P8.26 billion in the last session. Some 1.87 billion issues switched hands.

Decliners outpaced advancers, 99 against 85, while 57 names ended unchanged.

Foreign investors remained sellers, but net outflows were reduced to P261.55 million from P1.63 billion in the last session.





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