Malaysia awaits rate decision; recession woes hurt Asian currencies


BENGALURU: Most emerging Asian currencies dropped on Wednesday as turbulence hit-investors shunned riskier assets on renewed recession worries, though Malaysia's ringgit pared losses ahead of a central bank interest rate decision.

The South Korean won fell 0.5% and touched a 13-year low, leading the retreat for the regional currency markets, while the Malaysian ringgit pared some losses to largely trade flat.

The dollar held strong on Wednesday, holding multi-month highs against major peers as higher gas prices and political uncertainty renewed fears of a sharp economic slowdown and sent investors scrambling to the safe haven currency.

A survey conducted by Reuters showed Malaysia's central bank will likely raise its key interest rate on Wednesday by 25 basis points to 2.25%, its first consecutive hike in more than a decade, to rein in inflation stemming in part from a weaker ringgit as the U.S. Federal Reserve hikes aggressively.

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), although dealing with low inflation compared with many other economies, had unexpectedly raised its key overnight policy rate by 25 basis points to 2.00% at its May meeting.

"We do not rule out another 25 bps increase at either September or November MPC meetings, and currently sees OPR potentially returning to the pre-COVID level of 3% in 2023," Maybank GM Research analysts said in a research note.

Meanwhile, oil prices suffered their biggest daily drop since March on growing fears that a recession and COVID-19 lockdowns in China that could slash demand.




"Recession concerns are clearly presented in the forefront, with the overnight inversion of the two-year and 10-year segment of the U.S. yield curve while oil prices dipped more than 8% to come in below US$100," said Jun Rong Yeap, a market strategist at IG.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields tumbled to one-month lows overnight and a key part of the yield curve inverted for the first time in three weeks as economic worries dented risk appetite and increased demand for safe-haven U.S. debt.

Investors are now waiting for fresh indications on whether the economy may enter a recession when the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) minutes are released today and U.S. payroll data is released on Friday.

The Philippine central bank may raise interest rates by an additional 100 basis points this year, its governor said on Wednesday, after data on Tuesday showed annual inflation hit a near four-year high in June.

Shares in Manila rejoiced on the central bank's announcement and rose 1.7%, hitting highest since June 15, while the peso skidded 0.3% in tandem with the regional currency markets.

Equity markets wobbled, with shares in energy exporters Indonesia and Malaysia dipping 1.21% each, while the Indian rupee held firm at 0.21%, owing to the plunging oil prices overnight.


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