Ringgit hits 10-month low at RM4.385 to USD

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SINGAPORE: The Malaysian ringgit hit a 10-month low today with increasing fears of capital controls, while most other emerging Asian currencies eased ahead of United States Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony later in the day.

China’s yuan bucked the trend in regional currencies despite a weaker central bank guidance rate as large local banks bought the currency in an apparent effort to curb its slump.

Spot ringgit lost 0.9 per cent to 4.3850 per US dollar, its weakest since Jan 20. The Malaysian hovered close to a 52-week low against the Singapore dollar on Thursday morning. Prices of most Malaysian government bonds slid with the 10-year yield at 4.221 per cent, the highest since Jan 11.

That came after the Malaysian central bank demanded foreign banks to make a written commitment to stop trading offshore non-deliverable forwards in its latest move to protect a weakening currency, banking sources said.

“Investors grew more concerned over Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) tightening trading rules. We cannot rule out the possibility of capital controls, although we don’t need to worry about that for now,” said Qi Gao, a FX strategist with Scotiabank in Singapore.

“Continued dollar strength triggered capital exodus too. If Yellen sounds hawkish tonight, the ringgit’s weakness will accelerate.”

The ringgit could weaken past 4.40 per US dollar and head to 4.50 by the year-end, he added.

Investors were closely waiting for Yellen’s testimony to see any clues on Fed’s interest rate policy as inflation is seen rising in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the US president election. Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick Harker said on Wednesday he favoured raising rates and that the US central bank might have to hike more aggressively if the incoming Trump administration enacts a fiscal stimulus.

Among Asian currencies, the South Korean won hit a near five-month low on equity outflows. The Singapore dollar hovered around a 9-1/2-month trough as disappointing October exports data raised risks of a recession and the odds for monetary policy easing. – Reuters/FMT

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