Investors unfazed by ringgit drop raise Malaysian bond holdings to record

Overseas investors appear unfazed by a slump in the ringgit, as government bond holdings rose to a record.
Overseas investors appear unfazed by a slump in the ringgit, as government bond holdings rose to a record. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Overseas investors appear unfazed by a slump in the ringgit, as government bond holdings rose to a record.

Global funds raised ownership of Malaysian sovereign notes by 4.5 per cent in June to RM176.6 billion (S$62.78 billion) from May, a fourth monthly increase, central bank data show. While the US is edging closer to boosting interest rates, 10- year bonds in the Southeast Asian nation still offer a yield of 4.09 per cent, compared with 2.20 per cent for Treasuries.

The ringgit dropped beyond 3.8 per dollar this week for the first time since a peg was scrapped in 2005, after falling a combined 5.7 per cent through June and May. Malaysia has been more exposed to emerging-market currency losses this year as controversy over state investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd. that has embroiled Prime Minister Najib Razak exacerbated its oil-related losses.

"The yield disparity with U.S. dollar yields is still there," said Nik Mukharriz Muhammad, a Kuala Lumpur-based fixed-income analyst at CIMB Investment Bank Bhd. "Uncertainty is something that investors wouldn't like but they are more focused on the fundamentals, which are still intact."

Foreign holdings of Malaysian government and corporate debt climbed 1.7 per cent to RM211.9 billion in June from the previous month. The three-year note yield fell 13 basis points last month to 3.19 per cent, the biggest decline of 2015, prices from Bursa Malaysia show. It has since increased to 3.23 per cent.

UBS predicts the ringgit will end the year at 3.75 a US dollar, with the market having priced in the worst of the weakness, according to a July 8 research note. That's more optimistic than Barclays and Credit Suisse, which forecast the currency will drop to 3.88 and 3.83, respectively. It has lost 7.9 per cent this year and traded at 3.7980 as of 10:20 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.