Asian markets hit; ringgit at 16-year low

The Malaysian ringgit has hit a 16-year low against the US dollar.
The Malaysian ringgit has hit a 16-year low against the US dollar. PHOTO: AFP

Mounting fears that Greece will exit the euro zone sent most Asian markets into a tailspin yesterday.

The aftershocks of Sunday's referendum result rejecting the terms of a bailout deal also roiled credit markets, currencies and gold.

There was no trading hitch in Singapore, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) noting that the domestic money and foreign exchange markets continued to function in an orderly fashion.

"The direct exposure of our economy and banking system to Greece is negligible, accounting for just under 0.2 per cent of total trade and 0.1 per cent of total banking system assets," it said.

"MAS is closely monitoring developments in the euro zone economy and global financial markets, and their potential impact on domestic markets and the economy."

Analysts believe the risk of major instability spreading beyond Greece's borders is low. The so-called contagion effect is likely to be contained, given the small amount of Greek debt held by private investors, they say. Most of its debt is to public institutions.

The Straits Times Index slipped 1 per cent at the opening bell yesterday, but recovered to close down just 0.29 per cent.

Most of Asia was in a sea of red yesterday, except for Shanghai bourses, which showed signs of stabilising in response to unprecedented government stimulus measures announced over the weekend. These include a collective pledge by China's top brokerages and fund managers to invest at least 120 billion yuan (S$26 billion) in stocks.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 2.41 per cent yesterday, but has plunged nearly 27 per cent from its peak on June 12.

Hong Kong declined 3.18 per cent, Japan shed 2.08 per cent and Taiwan lost 1.09 per cent. South Korea dropped 2.4 per cent and Malaysia was 0.99 per cent weaker.

The ringgit hit a 16-year low against the greenback, weakening beyond 3.80 for the first time since a peg at that level was scrapped in 2005. The government is probing a newspaper report that Prime Minister Najib Razak misappropriated funds from state investment company 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a claim he says is political sabotage.

Dealers expect markets to remain volatile in the days ahead over the possibility of Greece exiting the euro.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2015, with the headline 'Asian markets hit; ringgit at 16-year low'. Print Edition | Subscribe