Ringgit may hover at RM4 to greenback next year PETALING JAYA: After witnessing the ringgit fall in March to its lowest level this year against the US dollar, bright spots began to emerge for the local currency to appreciate against the greenback. Economists and currency strategists attributed the ringgit’s strength to the global economic recovery fuelled by the development of Covid-19 vaccine, strong crude oil prices and the US Federal Reserve’s decision to maintain its super-low interest rates. Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd chief economist Mohd Afzanizam Abdul Rashid, who is expecting the ringgit to hover at RM4 to the greenback next year, told StarBiz that he believed the local currency would appreciate further against the US dollar.CLICK TO ENLARGE He said the primary reason would be the improvement in global economy. The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is the main factor underpinning such a thesis, as this would allow the reopening of the economy, which would stimulate economic activities. “This, in turn, will help improve demand for fuel. And the decision by the Opec+ member countries to reduce oil production by 0.5 million barrels per day (mbpd) from 7.7 mbpd to 7.2 mbpd in 2021 should also support crude oil prices. “There is a strong relationship between ringgit and crude oil prices, given its importance to the Malaysian economy, especially in respect of the government’s revenue and the oil and gas sector in the country.”Afzanizam anticipates the overnight policy rate to stay unchanged at 1.75% next year. From an interest rate differential perspective compared with the developed countries, he said Malaysian assets would provide better yields and attract investors looking for higher returns. “So the stage is all set for further appreciation of the ringgit, ” he noted. He also pointed out that the value of the US dollar has been on the declining trend as the US dollar index (DXY) has dropped to around 91 recently from 102.487 in the middle of March this year. Therefore, he said, the risk-on mode appeared to have been the main driver for the weaker dollar, but intermittently, demand for the US dollar could be higher whenever uncertainties heightened. From the Nominal Effective Exchange Rate (NEER), Afzanizam said the ringgit may still hover below 100 points. In that sense, he noted that the ringgit is weaker against certain currencies, namely the euro, South Korean won, Aussie dollar, Chinese yuan, Japanese yen and Singapore dollar. Juwai IQI chief economist Shan Saeed (pic below) expects the ringgit to trade between 3.67 and 4.10 against the US dollar next year with solid structural stability in place amid global economic fragilities in the market. He said the dollar is heading for tail-end risk and is moving south. The Fed has created two tail-end risks: one is deflation and the other is inflation. The US economy, he said, is in the “biggest hole” in the modern era of economic history. “The US economy is heading for an L-shaped recession. Forty-seven million people have lost their jobs in the last 11 months. Unemployment is out of control. Debts are going unpaid. Bankruptcies are soaring. These factors will impact the greenback. “We expect the ringgit to remain stable in 2021 amid bedlam in the markets. Macro factors for the ringgit are fairly stable and positive despite headwinds in the exogenous environment. “Our outlook for the local currency is based on the premise that the US dollar depreciating significantly by 20% to 40% and the Fed maintaining its low interest rates for the next three years. “Besides this, we expect oil prices to go higher and trade between US$50 and US$65 a barrel, and macroeconomic stability will drive economic confidence, ” Shan noted. Juwai IQI is a leading property, technology and investment company operating and advising clients in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Melbourne. As at press time, the ringgit was trading at RM4.06 to the US dollar compared with RM4.16 a year ago. The ringgit depreciated to its lowest level for the year on March 24, trading at RM4.43 to the greenback. In terms of regional currencies, Shan expects the likes of rupiah, baht, dong, peso and Singapore dollar to remain stable like the ringgit as the US dollar heads for downward risk. The ringgit, according to AmBank Group chief economist Anthony Dass, is poised to stay strong against the greenback.The US dollar is currently hovering around lows last seen in April 2018, as investors continue to pour back into riskier assets, and analysts expect this weakness to persist into 2021. Dass added that a series of successful vaccine trials has driven a windfall for equity markets and other riskier asset classes. It is causing the greenback to slide against most G10 currencies and also currencies like ringgit and yuan, he said. Besides, President-elect Joe Biden’s US election victory and the Fed’s commitment to maintaining its unprecedented accommodative monetary policy stance has generated expectations for reflation in 2021, he said. “This reflation trade has led to further downside momentum for the dollar. Furthermore, the recovery in this region including Malaysia from the pandemic virus, supported by the stimulus measures, would attract funds that should see Malaysia benefitting from it. We also expect exports to improve with a view of improved global GDP and trade, “ Dass noted. However, he said there remained some headwinds on the ringgit including political noise and the risk of slower implementation that may result in below-expectations of GDP growth. Dass is projecting the ringgit for this year and next year to hover around RM4.05-RM4.07 and RM4.00-RM4.05 to the US dollar respectively.
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