KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) - Malaysia's ringgit was set to snap the longest run of weekly declines in more than four decades after the US refrained from raising interest rates and a rally in the price of Brent crude improved prospects for the net oil exporter.
The ringgit headed for its first weekly advance in three months, strengthening 1.7 per cent to 4.2467 per US dollar as of 11.16am in Kuala Lumpur, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. Its 0.2 per cent gain on Friday (Sept 18) pared its loss this year to 18 per cent, still the worst performance in Asia.
The ringgit, which in the last two weeks has gone below 3.07 per Singapore dollar, jumped to 3.0346 as of noon. It closed at 3.0422 on Thursday (Sept 17).
Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen held borrowing costs near zero on Thursday, saying afterward that most US policymakers still expect to raise rates this year. The delay reduces the risk of outflows from Malaysian debt and stocks. Brent crude headed for a weekly increase, a boon for a nation that derives 22 per cent of its revenue from oil-related sources.
"It's a relief rally because the Fed has delayed raising interest rates," said Mr Wong Chee Seng, a currency strategist at AmBank Group in Kuala Lumpur. "Improved oil prices helped the ringgit's sentiment."
Traders in the federal funds futures market marked down the chances of a December rate rise to 45 per cent following news of the decision, compared with 64 per cent on Wednesday. The ringgit's rebound may be short-lived as the Fed's inaction increases uncertainty in the market, Mr Wong said.
Malaysian central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the country faces a "very challenging" period that it has been able to manage so far and the ringgit's decline has been affected by many factors including domestic ones, according to a report in the local New Straits Times newspaper on Thursday.
The yield on the sovereign bonds due September 2025 fell three basis points this week and two points on Friday to a six- week low of 4.15 per cent, according to prices from Bursa Malaysia.