The currency touched a five-month low yesterday after data released Jan. 22 showed consumer prices climbed 3.2 percent last month from a year earlier, exceeding the 3.1 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The increase may prompt Bank Negara Malaysia to raise its policy rate by 50 basis points this year, Rahul Bajoria, a Singapore-based economist at Barclays Plc, wrote in a Jan. 22 research note.
The yield on Malaysia’s 3.26 percent sovereign bonds due March 2018 advanced seven basis points this week, the most since the period ended Nov. 22, to 3.69 percent as of 9:48 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It was little changed today. The rate on the 4.181 percent securities maturing in July 2024 increased eight basis points since Jan. 17 to 4.25 percent.
“The currency weakness is resulting in soft demand from foreign investors,” said Rohit Arora, a Singapore-based interest-rates strategist at Barclays. “Rising inflation and monetary-policy tightening expectations are resulting in a softening of onshore demand.”
Global funds held 29 percent of Malaysian government bonds at the end of November, official data show, making them relatively vulnerable to foreign outflows. That compares with 32 percent in Indonesia and 18 percent in Thailand.
The ringgit declined 1 percent this week, the biggest loss in a month, to 3.3298 per dollar in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It touched 3.3363 yesterday, the weakest level since Aug. 28, and was little changed today. The currency has weakened 1.6 percent this year, as the Federal Reserve began paring its bond-buying program that has driven demand for emerging-market assets.
Borrowing costs rose at the government’s first auction of Islamic debt for 2014 held this week. The treasury sold 3.5 billion ringgit ($1.1 billion) of notes due April 2019 on Jan. 21 at 3.953 percent, compared with 3.91 percent in the secondary market.
Market speculation that Malaysia will raise interest rates may be “premature” as the pickup in inflation is mainly due to administrative adjustments after the government increased fuel and electricity tariffs, DBS Group Holdings Ltd. analysts including Singapore-based Irvin Seah wrote in a Jan. 21 report.
One-month implied volatility in the ringgit, a measure of expected moves in the exchange rate used to price options, rose 65 basis points, or 0.65 percentage point, this week to 7.56 percent. The gauge advanced 16 basis points today and is headed for its first five-day advance since the period ended Nov. 29.
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