Ringgit rises to 9-month high as optimism increases

GROWING optimism about slower interest rate hikes continued to heed the ringgit to end at a nine-month high today.

At 6pm, the ringgit jumped to 4.3570/3615 against the greenback, a level was last seen in early May 2022, from Wednesday’s close of 4.3700/3725.

SPI Asset Management managing partner Stephen Innes said confidence is increasing for the Federal Reserve (Fed) to downshift once again rate hikes from 50 basis points to 25 basis points at the February Federal Open Market Committee meeting. 

“But, importantly, a more benign inflation outlook raises the odds of a Fed pause sooner than later and increases the likelihood of a soft landing, which is excellent news for stocks.

“As such, investment inflows are expected to increase,” he told Bernama.

Innes said exporters were also seen converting the US dollar on expectations of a stronger ringgit in conjunction with China’s ongoing economic rebound post-Covid-19 lockdowns.

“This sets up a test of 4.25 mid-year or sooner, and the eventual return of ringgit to 4.20 by year-end,” he noted.

All eyes now are on the US inflation data due later today after Fed chairman Jerome Powell failed to provide any new direct clues about their policy path during his speech at Sweden’s Riksbank symposium yesterday. 

Meanwhile, China’s inflation remained moderate with the consumer price index rising by 1.8% in December from a year earlier, up from 1.6% growth in November, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

It said inflation in China stood at 2% in 2022, below the official target of around 3%.

At home, the ringgit traded mixed against a basket of major currencies.

The local currency appreciated against the Singapore dollar to 3.2764/2803 from 3.2820/2841 at yesterday’s close and improved against the euro to 4.6890/6938 from 4.6938/6965.

It, however, eased versus the British pound to 5.3033/3088 from 5.3017/3047 at yesterday’s close and declined vis-a-vis the Japanese yen to 3.3242/3281 from 3.2984/3007. — Bernama/graphic by TMR