Ringgit leads drop in Asia on bets Fitch will downgrade Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia's ringgit dropped the most in Asia on speculation Fitch Ratings will downgrade the country as the U.S. moves toward raising interest rates.

Fitch, which ranks Malaysia at A-, the fourth-lowest investment grade, with a negative outlook, will review its assessment before the end of June, Andrew Colquhoun, head of Asia Pacific sovereign ratings in Hong Kong, said Wednesday.

There's more than a 50 per cent chance the country's credit rating will be downgraded, he said in March. The Bloomberg U.S. Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback versus 10 major currencies, rose 1.1 per cent in the week through Thursday.

"Asian currencies are falling because of the dollar strength and on speculation that the U.S. will raise interest rates as early as September," said Wong Chee Seng, a foreign-exchange strategist at AmBank Group in Kuala Lumpur.

"The ringgit fell more because people are expecting Fitch to downgrade the country's rating next week."

The ringgit declined 0.4 per cent to 3.7650 per US dollar as of 10:26 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It dropped to 3.7690 earlier, the weakest since June 15, and has lost 7.1 per cent this year in Asia's worst performance.

Malaysia's government bonds were steady. The yield on the five-year notes was 3.63 per cent, while that on the 10-year securities held at 4.03 per cent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.