Friday, 24 April 2015

Future of the Ringgit

The exchange rate of the currency in which a portfolio holds the bulk of its investments determines that portfolio’s real return. A declining exchange rate obviously decreases the purchasing power of income and capital gains derived from any returns. Moreover, the exchange rate influences other income factors such as interest rates, inflation and even capital gains from domestic securities. While exchange rates are determined by numerous complex factors that often leave even the most experienced economists flummoxed, investors should still have some understanding of how currency values and exchange rates play an important role in the rate of return on their investments.

There are positive factors that still support the ringgit: decent economic growth expected for 2015, low Government external debt and a credible monetary authority that has led to relatively low inflation over the years,’’ said Zahidi.

From a yield perspective in 2015, the US dollar will continue to sustain its appeal as the Federal Reserve is preparing to normalise the prolonged ultra low interest rates, albeit in baby steps in the months ahead.

“While the ringgit is expected to stabilise once negative sentiment towards it fades, investors will be focusing on Malaysia’s medium-term growth prospects and also assess whether the ringgit will continue to provide attractive returns from both a yield and appreciation standpoint in the face of higher US interest rates, going forward.

In another report, CIMB Investment Bank did a study in March 2004 when the ringgit was still pegged to the US dollar and at that time, found the ringgit to be undervalued by around five per cent.

‘’Since then, Malaysia’s fundamentals have strengthened further. As such, I would think that the ringgit deserves a much higher value from current levels,’’ said CIMB Investment Bank director/regional economist Julia Goh.

Negative perception and sentiment can really damage the value of a currency, which would cause concern among businesses and investors.

While those businesses that receive their payment in US dollars may celebrate, the net effect may not be that great as there could be high import costs of components and raw materials.

The current depreciation of the ringgit should remain for a year. However due to low debt to GDP ratios and high saving rates the immediate effects are on exports and inflation.

For a country with a depreciated currency, exports will increase in relation to imports as exports become cheaper and imports become more expensive.

Fortunately Malaysia’s trade surplus is RM2.86 billion and it is going to increase due to currency depreciation. The depreciation of the ringgit might increase the inflation rate and raise the cost of living somewhat, but the good news is that Malaysia has been maintaining a ‘safe-side inflation level’ of below two per cent for quite some time.

The exchange rate, whether appreciating or depreciating, was not the issue but volatility of the currency which rendered conduct of business extremely difficult and affected the capital market and the banking sector when it came to mortgages and shares.

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