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Malaysia

Malaysian ringgit faces pressure

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  • The Malaysian ringgit faces ongoing pressure against the US dollar due to the Federal Reserve's hawkish stance and global economic uncertainties.
  • Mixed performance against other major currencies and ASEAN peers reflects complex regional and global economic dynamics.
  • Upcoming economic data releases, particularly inflation indicators, will be crucial in shaping future currency trends and central bank policies.

The Malaysian ringgit has been experiencing persistent pressure against the US dollar, largely due to the Federal Reserve's hawkish stance and ongoing economic uncertainties. As of the latest trading session, the ringgit closed at RM4.7160/7190 against the greenback, showing a marginal decline from the previous day's close of RM4.7140/7185. This slight depreciation underscores the challenges faced by emerging market currencies in the current global economic landscape.

Dr. Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid, chief economist at Bank Muamalat Malaysia Bhd, provided insights into the day's trading patterns, noting that the USD/MYR exchange rate reached RM4.7225 in the morning session before settling around RM4.7183 in the afternoon. This intraday volatility highlights the sensitivity of the ringgit to market sentiment and external factors.

The US Dollar Index (DXY), a key benchmark for the greenback's strength against a basket of major currencies, has been a significant driver of forex market trends. After briefly surpassing 106 points, the DXY retreated to 105.932 points, indicating some moderation in the dollar's strength. However, the overall sentiment remains cautious, with market participants closely watching upcoming economic data releases.

One of the critical factors influencing currency movements is the anticipation of central bank decisions. The Federal Reserve's hawkish stance has been a primary contributor to the dollar's strength. As Stephen Innes, managing partner of SPI Asset Management, pointed out, "The ringgit, like other Asian currencies, is facing pressure due to the stronger US dollar. The market is still digesting the hawkish Fed rhetoric, which suggests that US interest rates may need to be raised further to combat inflation".

The upcoming release of the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation, is expected to provide further direction for currency markets. This data point could significantly impact the Fed's future policy decisions and, consequently, the relative strength of the US dollar against emerging market currencies like the ringgit.

While the ringgit has faced challenges against the US dollar, its performance against other major currencies has been mixed. The local currency appreciated against the Japanese yen to 2.9383/9404 from 2.9459/9489 and gained ground against the British pound, trading at 5.9643/9681 compared to the previous 5.9722/9779. However, it weakened slightly against the euro, moving to 5.0452/0484 from 5.0383/0431.

In the ASEAN context, the ringgit's performance has been varied. It eased against the Singapore dollar and Indonesian rupiah while strengthening against the Thai baht. These movements reflect the complex dynamics within the region and the varying economic conditions and policy responses of different ASEAN nations.

The persistent strength of the US dollar has broader implications for emerging markets, including Malaysia. A stronger dollar can lead to increased costs for imports and potentially higher inflation rates. It also affects the competitiveness of exports, which are crucial for Malaysia's export-oriented economy.

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) plays a critical role in managing these currency fluctuations and their impact on the domestic economy. The central bank's monetary policy decisions, including potential interest rate adjustments, are closely watched by market participants for signals about the future direction of the ringgit.

As global economic uncertainties persist, including ongoing trade tensions, geopolitical risks, and the lingering effects of the pandemic, the ringgit's path forward remains challenging to predict. Economists and analysts continue to emphasize the importance of monitoring key economic indicators, both domestic and international, to gauge the potential trajectory of the Malaysian currency.

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