KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 18): Malaysia’s ringgit rose the most in five weeks after the Federal Reserve signaled it will hold off from raising interest rates at least through the first quarter, spurring gains in global stocks and oil.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said yesterday that the central bank will be patient on the timing of the first rate increase since 2006, and is “unlikely to begin the normalization process for at least the next couple of meetings” in January and March. The ringgit is Asia’s worst-performing currency this quarter as oil prices slumped. While Brent had it biggest rally since Dec. 1 overnight, it’s still at a five-year low.
“The positive risk sentiment and the small bounce in the oil price has helped the ringgit,” said Sim Moh Siong, a currency strategist at Bank of Singapore Ltd. “The ringgit has been hard hit by the fall in oil prices with Malaysia being a net oil exporter.”
The ringgit appreciated 0.4 percent, the biggest gain since Nov. 10, to 3.4722 per dollar as of 10:06 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency has declined 5.5 percent this quarter and fell to a five-year low of 3.5073 on Dec. 8.
The government will announce measures to cushion the impact of a weaker ringgit on the economy, according to a report in the New Straits Times newspaper today that cited Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Hamim Samuri.
Brent has dropped 47 percent from this year’s high in June, raising concern Malaysia’s export earnings will decline and weigh on the current-account surplus.
Economic growth will slow to 4.7 percent next year from an estimated 5.7 percent in 2014 as overseas shipments and energy investments ease, the World Bank said in its Malaysia Economic Monitor report issued yesterday.
Treasury yields rose on the Fed statement. The difference in yields between Malaysia’s 10-year government bonds and similar-maturity U.S. debt widened to 220 basis points on Dec. 16, the biggest gap since 1999, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
The yield on Malaysia’s 4.181 percent sovereign notes due 2024 was little changed at 4.26 percent. The rate has climbed 40 basis points so far in December, headed for its biggest monthly increase since November last year.