Ringgit Declines to Five-Year Low as Oil Damps Growth Outlook

Malaysia’s ringgit slid to the weakest level in more than five years as retreating crude prices damped the net oil-exporting nation’s growth outlook.

Brent crude extended its drop from a four-year low today and has slumped 17 percent in the past month as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided not to cut output to shore up prices. Malaysia’s overseas shipments contracted in October for the first time in 16 months, official data showed today. The ringgit led declines in Asian currencies this week, losing 2.5 percent, and recorded its biggest weekly loss since June 2013.

“Malaysia is the only Asian country that really doesn’t benefit from lower oil prices,” said Mitul Kotecha, the Singapore-based head of Asia currency strategy at Barclays Plc. “Being a net exporter of oil, Malaysia suffers more than others.”

The ringgit weakened 0.7 percent to 3.4713 per dollar in Kuala Lumpur, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It reached 3.4757 earlier, the lowest level since October 2009.

UBS AG lowered its forecast for Malaysia’s 2015 economic growth to 4.5 percent from 5.0 percent, citing the negative impact of lower energy prices on the nation’s investment, business sentiment and exports, economists including Singapore-based Edward Teather wrote in a Dec. 3 report.

Malaysian exports shrank 3.1 percent in October from a year earlier. The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey was for a 0.3 percent decline. The trade surplus narrowed to 1.19 billion ringgit ($342.8 million), the smallest since April 2013.

Budget Deficit

Oil-related industries account for a third of Malaysian state revenue and each 10 percent decline in crude will worsen the nation’s fiscal shortfall by 0.2 percent of the gross domestic product, Chua Hak Bin, a Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist in Singapore, wrote in an Oct. 22 report.

The government, which has run a budget deficit since 1998, is seeking to trim the gap to 3 percent of gross domestic product next year from 3.5 percent.

The yield on Malaysia’s sovereign bonds due July 2024 jumped four basis points, or 0.04 percentage point, to 3.94 percent, the highest since Sept. 22, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

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