The Malaysian ringgit fell in offshore trading on Thursday on news of a shock election victory for opposition party leader Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan Alliance scored a wholly unexpected win over Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional, marking the first time a party other than the Barisan Nasional will rule since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.
The ringgit one-month and three-month non-deliverable forwards (NDF) weakened from Wednesday’s close.
Bursa Malaysia, the national stock exchange, said trade would be suspended on Thursday and Friday in line with public holidays declared by the government. Mizuho Bank said the holidays and suspension of trade was “buying time for Pakatan Harapan lawmakers to reassure investors that any change would be gradual and carefully managed”.
A Bank Negara Malaysia spokesman said it would hold its policy meeting as scheduled later in the day. “Malaysia is in unchartered territory as it has never had change of federal government before. The market had factored in a win for the ruling coalition so there will be some outflows on expectations of policy changes,” said Jalil Rasheed, investment director at Invesco.
Indonesia’s rupiah took the opposite tack in offshore trading on Thursday, with the three-month NDF strengthening to 14,385 from Wednesday’s 14,411, after the central bank said it would intervene to support the currency.
Indonesia’s financial markets were closed for a local holiday. The spot rupiah ended at 14,075 against the dollar on Wednesday, its third session of falls and hitting its lowest since Dec 2015.
Bank Indonesia (BI) had suggested it may raise interest rates as it said it was preparing to take monetary steps including adjusting the 7-day reverse repo rate – its key rate. The central bank said it would assess the level of inflation and the trade balance, as well as global capital flows and U.S. interest rates, before deciding whether to hike.
BI is to hold its monthly policy meeting next week. It has kept the interest rate constant since cutting it by 25 basis points in September last year.
PHILIPPINE PESO, CHINESE YUAN
The peso rose 0.3 percent after news its economy grew 6.8 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, matching expectations, driven by industry and services. The data comes before the central bank’s monthly policy meeting later in the day when it is expected to hike the key interest rate as inflation picks up.
The Chinese yuan edged higher. China’s producer inflation picked up for the first time in seven months in April, bolstered by surging commodity prices and suggesting its industrial demand remains resilient in the face of trade tensions with the United States.
Inflation in China is watched closely by analysts and investors for signs of a long-expected economic slowdown that would possibly tip a shift in central bank policy.