Archive for category Finance
by Will Davies
January 5, 2017
Ringgit was among the weaker major Asian currencies in 2017
China’s economic slowdown will weigh on Malaysian trade: BMI
Malaysia’s ringgit, one of Asia’s worst-performing currencies over the past year, has further to fall, according to BMI Research.
One reason is because it is affected by the yuan, which is going to remain under downward pressure, BMI said in a Jan. 4 note. There will also likely be a narrowing of real interest-rate differentials between the U.S. and Malaysia, with the latter probably staying on hold this year while the Federal Reserve increases rates by a total of 50 basis points. Further weakness in the global bond market would also put the ringgit under pressure given that around 40 percent of Malaysian bonds are held by foreigners.
BMI has lowered its forecast for the ringgit. It expects it to average 4.50 per U.S. dollar this year and 4.40 in 2018, from 4.00 and 3.88 previously. The currency, which fell 4.3 percent against the greenback last year and 18.5 percent in 2015, hasn’t posted an annual gain since 2012. Read the rest of this entry »
BY BHAVAN JAIPRAGAS
South China Morning Post
20 DEC 2016
Currency hits levels last seen in 1998 as uncertainty over Trump, interest rates and 1MDB scandal create perfect storm – but government denies capital controls could be on the cards
The beaten down Malaysian ringgit is showing no signs of catching a break in the tail end of 2016.
The currency on Tuesday hovered near its lowest level since the height of the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis, as it reeled from a perfect storm of bearish factors including uncertainty about Donald Trump’s impending presidency in the United States, the acceleration of US interest rate hikes and a long-running corruption scandal linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Some observers said the slump – the ringgit is poised to finish the year as Asia’s worst performing currency for a second year running – raised the spectre of a repeat of the controversial capital controls imposed in 1998.
The government has so far swatted away suggestions it will re-introduce such measures.
The ringgit traded at 4.4798 in Tuesday afternoon trade in Asia, according to Bloomberg. It had fallen to 4.4805 on Monday, its weakest point since January 1998.
It has lost six per cent since Trump’s shock victory in the US presidential election on November 8. Read the rest of this entry »
By RACHEL ROSENTHAL
Wall Street Journal
Dec. 15, 2016
Foreign investors are fleeing the country’s stock and bond markets
Malaysia has been one of Asia’s worst-hit economies amid the continued climb of U.S. interest rates and the dollar.
Foreign investors sold $5.3 billion of Malaysian stocks and bonds in November, the largest monthly outflow since September 2011, according to ANZ Bank. That is almost a quarter of the $22.1 billion pulled from emerging markets in the region, excluding China.
The bulk of the selling was in Malaysia’s bond market. The $4.5 billion of bonds sold by foreigners in November, in ringgit terms, marks the biggest monthly debt outflow on record, according to ANZ. Read the rest of this entry »
24 Nov 2016
Malaysia’s currency has tumbled in the wake of the market’s “Trump tantrum,” and analysts disagree on whether that’s just the beginning or near the end.
The ringgit has taken it on the chin since Donald Trump’s surprise win in the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.
By Thursday, dollar had climbed as much as 6.5 percent against the Malaysian currency for the month so far, with the greenback fetching as much as 4.4630 ringgit, its highest since September 2015, and is flirting with levels last seen during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. On Friday, the dollar was fetching 4.460 ringgit at 10:06 a.m. HK/SIN. Read the rest of this entry »
August 4, 2016
The bad news just doesn’t stop for Asia’s worst-performing currency.
Already reeling from a renewed slump in oil prices and a political scandal that just won’t go away, the Malaysian ringgit is now facing the prospect of another cut in interest rates. It’s the region’s biggest loser in the past month and analysts still see scope for it to drop more than 2 percent by year-end.
The currency’s slide highlights all is not well as the nation’s economy heads for its worst performance this decade. Crude oil’s plunge to a four-month low this week undermines the finances of net oil exporter Malaysia, while the appeal of its relatively high bond yields is being tempered by the scandals surrounding a troubled state investment fund. Rabobank Group and UBS Group AG both predict Bank Negara Malaysia will add to its first rate cut in seven years in coming months. Read the rest of this entry »
by Shamim Adam & Y-Sing Liau
April 25, 2016
Malaysia’s central bank Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz has one week to go in the job and investors still don’t know who will replace her.
Zeti is credited by investors with strengthening the credibility and independence of Bank Negara Malaysia in the 16 years she’s been at the helm and the longer Prime Minister Najib Razak drags his feet on announcing a successor, the more market analysts are worrying. It’s something the economy can ill afford with sentiment already under pressure as Najib faces his biggest political crisis since coming to power seven years ago.
“Trepidation is particularly pronounced” given the uncertainty over Zeti’s successor, said Jack Chambers, an economist at Moody’s Analytics Australia Pty Ltd. While the ringgit has gained about 10 percent this year after a 19 percent slump in 2015, a measure of its implied volatility is the highest in Asia. Read the rest of this entry »
Koon Yew Yin
20th April 2016
Recently there was a news report that the serious shortage of labour has caused 14 furniture manufacturers in Johor to close shop. According to Malaysian Furniture Council president Chua Chun Chai, the furniture industry in the peninsula is facing a shortfall of some 35,000 workers. This situation has caused 300 furniture makers and workers in Bakri, Muar to demonstrate and putting up banners proclaiming “No foreign workers = end of the industry”.
According to Mr. Chua, the foreign worker recruitment freeze had dealt a heavy blow to the foreign labour-intensive industry. The hardest-hit states are Johor, Selangor and Penang which together produce 95% of the total furniture the country exports, he said, adding that the biggest markets for Malaysian furniture are the US, Japan, China, Australia, the UK, India and United Arab Emirates.
“Last year, Malaysia’s furniture export hit RM9 billion, which was 14.1% more than the 2014 figure. “If not for the freeze on recruitment of foreign workers, we were looking at breaching the RM10 billion mark this year. But with a shortage of labour we are facing, the export is expected to shrink greatly. “As such, the council is appealing to both the prime minister and deputy prime minister to look into our predicament seriously,” he said.
Actually, the problem of shortage of foreign workers as a result of the recent freeze is not confined to the furniture industry alone. Practically every sector of the country’s economy is dependent on foreign labour. Read the rest of this entry »
Koon Yew Yin
18th April 2016
I am not surprised to see The Edge front page article ”SAVING PROTON” on 18th April 2016. Dr Mahathir, the founder of Proton was interviewed last week by The Edge. You can read the whole interview on page 65.
Among several other questions, Dr Mahathir was asked “Do you think the Rm 1.5 billion soft loan can turn Proton around? “
Answer quote “Well, under the present condition, yes, but we would have been able to turn around earlier. Proton car sales today have plummeted unusually because normally, we sell about 4,000 cars a week. It came down to 2,000 cars a week, which we can still survive on. We don’t understand why. This month, it came down to 200 cars a week. We don’t understand why”.
I am sure all Malaysians can understand why if you read on. Read the rest of this entry »
– Ramon Navaratnam
The Malaysian Insider
9 February 2016
The preliminary International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff report on the Malaysian economy was published by the press on February 5.
The report followed intense IMF annual consultations held between January 11 and 22 in Kuala Lumpur and Kuching. Pity Sabah was left out.
The IMF report was too politically correct but nevertheless revealing.
IMF mission chairman Dr Alex Mourmouras in his press release subtly suggested that the Malaysian economy faced multiple shocks including “political developments and capital outflows”.
Both these factors reveal that in addition to external problems, there are also serious internal issues within our power to control and overcome.
But how much have we done to overcome these critical domestic issues? Read the rest of this entry »
29th January 2016
Thought the long-running political scandal over Malaysia’s deeply indebted sovereign fund was over?
It isn’t and the festering scandal is likely to weigh on the economy and may eventually spur a ratings downgrade, Oxford Economics says.
That’s bad news for Malaysia, which is already suffering from a slide in the price of commodities, an important chunk of the economy and a key source of revenue for the government. The currency has tumbled and the government’s debt levels have climbed, fueling investor concerns.
“Just as it appeared that the long-running scandal over state investment company 1MDB had been satisfactorily resolved, the issue has reignited with an appeal against the ruling exonerating the prime minister,” Christine Shields, lead economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note Friday. “The issue is a real worry as it is eroding confidence and contributing to risk aversion about the country.” Read the rest of this entry »
by Shamim Adam
January 11, 2016
Moody’s Investors Service lowered its credit-rating outlook for Malaysia, citing an external environment that has crimped government revenue despite Prime Minister Najib Razak’s efforts to improve the country’s finances.
The ratings company cut the outlook on the A3 sovereign rating to stable from positive, it said on Monday in a statement. The move brings its outlook into line with that of Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, with all three companies ranking Malaysia at their fourth-lowest investment grades.
Since Moody’s assigned a positive outlook in November 2013 the government has sought to improve its finances, rationalizing fuel subsidies and putting in place a goods and services tax, the ratings company said. But the impact on the government’s balance sheet has been limited and will remain so, in part due to changes in the external environment, it said.
“Those environmental changes have also undermined Malaysia’s external position, with large capital outflows, a falling current account surplus, sharp exchange rate depreciation and falling reserves,” Moody’s said.
The ringgit, which was already weaker prior to the Moody’s announcement amid general risk aversion related to China, was 0.6 percent lower at 4.4120 a dollar as of 2:05 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur. The yield on the 10-year government bond was up three basis points to 4.25 percent. Read the rest of this entry »
by Ida Lim
The Malay Mail Online
December 14, 2015
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 — Retail outlets here are reporting a drop in business as Malaysians cut spending to cope with the rising cost of living.
For many of those who spoke to Malay Mail Online about their lifestyle changes, cutting out unnecessary purchases and making prudent spending choices are the order of the day.
Fadzilla Hernani, 29, a post-graduate student whose monthly household spending has gone up by around 20 per cent after the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), said she has switched to hypermarkets’ house brands to get non-food items of equal quality at a cheaper price.
“Milk has no price controls, I choose the cheapest (baby) milk powder. Last time, I chose Anmum, but now it has increased by RM5, RM6, one week one box is RM60, but because it is expensive, I am forced to find a cheaper brand… Dutch Lady at RM25, the quality is slightly lower,” said Fadzilla, who has a three-year-old toddler.
Every sen saved counts for Fadzilla who now buys paper of slightly lower quality at 70gsm just to save RM1 and purchases pens in bulk without caring for the brand. Read the rest of this entry »
Praveen Menon & Anshuman Daga
3 Dec 2015
A generous winning bid from a state-owned Chinese firm for a scandal-ridden Malaysian fund’s power assets will help Beijing find favour as it seeks more deals in the country and to extend its influence in South-East Asia, financial and diplomatic sources say.
China’s South-East Asia push is widely seen as having come at a perfect time for embattled Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who chairs the advisory board of state fund 1MDB and has been grappling with international probes and public outrage over allegations of graft at the fund.
The US$2.3 billion offer from China General Nuclear Corp, a surprise winner in the bidding, and its assumption of US$1.8 billion in 1MDB debt will result in Chinese firms having pole positions as key rail, port and road projects come up for grabs, sources said. Read the rest of this entry »
4th November 2015
Malaysia’s hard-hit stock market is getting a less-than-ringing endorsement with one of the world’s leading lenders telling investors that things aren’t likely to get any worse.
“There have been numerous globally attention-grabbing headlines on Malaysia this year, which we believe have increased political uncertainty and risk in investing in Malaysia,” analysts at Deutsche Bank said in a note Monday.
“However, going forward, we do not expect this to increase.” Read the rest of this entry »
By TOM WRIGHT And KEN BROWN
Wall Street Journal
Oct. 23, 2015
Investment fund is under investigation in five countries
HONG KONG — A scandal involving a government investment fund in Malaysia is drawing world-wide attention and has led to calls at home for the ouster of the country’s prime minister. It is also affecting U.S. diplomacy in a strategically important part of Asia. The fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB, is under investigation in five countries.
It is a story of political intrigue, backroom politics and billions of dollars in missing money. At the center of it all is Prime Minister Najib Razak, who founded 1MDB. A Malaysian government probe found that nearly $700 million moved through banks, agencies and companies linked to 1MDB before being deposited into Mr. Najib’s alleged private bank accounts ahead of a close election. The source of the money is unclear, though in August, Malaysia’s anticorruption body said the funds were a donation from the Middle East. The donor wasn’t specified.
Here’s a primer on Malaysia, 1MDB and the scandal that has drawn the interest of investigators from around the world. Read the rest of this entry »
Hafiz Noor Shams
20th Oct 2015
Scandal-stricken premier faces tough choices between pleasing voters and keeping fiscal balance
Najib Razak, Malaysia’s beleaguered prime minister and finance minister, is being pulled in opposite directions by conflicting imperatives.
One is political. Voters, dismayed by a slowing economy and allegations of personal corruption and other irregularities at state fund 1MDB — vigorously denied by Mr Najib and the fund — are piling on the pressure for an increase in public spending.
The economic imperative, however, demands spending cuts, as depressed energy prices and slowing growth threaten to reverse the benefits of fiscal reforms enacted over the past several years. Read the rest of this entry »
October 16, 2015
Meet Malaysia, the new Brazil.
Nearly felled by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, the Southeast Asian nation recovered to become a global commodities juggernaut, known for its stable government and investor-friendly policies. Now, with its premier enveloped by a multi million dollar funding scandal, Malaysia risks being infected with the kind of economic malaise that has struck its emerging market counterpart in South America.
Prime Minister Najib Razak, 62, has denied any wrongdoing. But as investigations continue and opponents like previous premier Mahathir Mohamad call for his resignation, the danger is the leadership stays in fire-fighting mode. The economy is already hit by a slowdown in prices for oil and natural gas, and Najib is expected to make bigger handouts to the poor in the budget on Oct. 23. Could Malaysia slide into a “lost decade”?
“Malaysia risks not just being left behind, but falling off the radar all together, especially with foreign investors,” said Jim Walker, managing director at Hong Kong-based Asianomics Ltd. and former chief economist at CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets. “People are definitely shying away from Malaysia,” he said, and the politics of Malaysia is “by far the biggest threat”. Read the rest of this entry »
October 16, 2015
A rebound in Malaysia’s ringgit will prove short-lived as the factors that made it Asia’s worst performer this year show few signs of going away, according to an investment arm of France’s largest bank.
“We’re in a situation where nothing’s changed, so therefore the only conclusion we have is that Malaysia remains a market to be short,” said Mark Capstick, a London-based fund manager at BNP Paribas Investment Partners, which oversees 532 billion euros ($605 billion). “We’re short right across the board,” he said, adding that assets being bet against include the ringgit as well as the nation’s local-currency and global bonds.
While the ringgit has appreciated more than 6 percent in October to rank among the top five in emerging markets, it’s been dogged by a persistent drop in oil prices, slowing Chinese growth and a probe of fund transfers into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s bank accounts. Malaysia’s currency is rebounding from a 17-year low reached in September as the receding prospect of a U.S. interest-rate increase in 2015 revives demand for higher-yielding assets worldwide.
Like BNP Paribas, Pacific Investment Management Co. is also sticking to its guns and maintaining bets that the ringgit’s slide will resume. Pimco, which oversees $1.52 trillion, reported Oct. 1 it had short positions on emerging-market currencies including the ringgit, Thai baht and South Korea’s won. Read the rest of this entry »
The Malaysian Insider
9 October 2015
Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz should be brutally honest about the issues plaguing the country, said Euromoney in its October edition, as the ringgit continues its freefall and the economy begins to stutter.
The business and finance magazine said all this while, Zeti had been using words like “domestic factors” to describe the problems besetting the country, instead of saying that the predicament lies with debt-laden state owned firm 1Malaysia Development Fund (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion donation in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s personal accounts.
“Zeti has demonstrated through 15 matchless years of service that she is not one to pull her punches under political pressure.
“Now is not the time for her to start doing so. It would effectively mean that the BNM she tirelessly champions has not advanced at all.
“Zeti could go harder on what really ails the country. As Malaysia’s most trusted public official, she possesses something that the political class are in dire supply of – respect and moral authority,” the magazine said. Read the rest of this entry »
by Gillian Terzis
Australian Business Review
5 OCT, 2015
Markets around the world have endured a wild ride in recent times, as global events conspire to spook investors into rash decision-making. Nowhere is this phenomenon more pronounced than in emerging economies.
Take, for instance, Malaysia’s economic struggles. The Malaysian ringgit has been one of the poorest performing currencies in the world, shedding 26 per cent against the US dollar this year and plumbing to a 17-year low of 3.9 ringgit against the greenback. An analyst note from Merrill Lynch illustrates that in some respects, Malaysia appears in weaker shape than it was in 1997 at the time of the Asian financial crisis. For instance, household debt as a share of GDP is now at 86 per cent, compared with 46 per cent in 1997; public debt as a percentage of GDP has climbed from 31 per cent in 1997 to 54 per cent today.
The steep correction in commodity markets hasn’t helped the country either. The commodities upon which Malaysia is heavily reliant (palm oil, petroleum, and rubber) have endured precipitous declines, with little reprieve in sight. The probable downward trajectory of crude oil prices in the short to medium term is certain to inflict even more pressure on the beleaguered currency.
Moreover, the rhetoric and actions undertaken by Malaysia’s federal government are likely to disabuse one of any optimism, no matter how cautious, for the country’s economic outlook. It has been alleged by the Wall Street Journal that RM2.6 billion ($840 million) had been transferred into the personal accounts of Prime Minister Najib Razak from companies connected to 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a heavily indebted state-owned strategic development company. Razak has since shut down an investigation into his administration’s alleged graft and mismanagement of state funds.
Unsurprisingly, these revelations have weighed on investor sentiment, with foreign investors withdrawing some RM11.7bn out of equities markets to date. The country’s bond markets are also a source of vulnerability, with big moves recorded in the lead up to the maturation of RM8.2bn of government debt on October 15. (Commentators have expressed concerns about the country’s rapidly waning currency reserves.) Read the rest of this entry »