KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s ringgit rose to the highest level since June and 10-year bond yields held at a three-month low after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a goods and services tax to help cut the fiscal deficit.
The government plans to introduce a 6 per cent GST rate in April 2015 in an effort to shrink the shortfall between revenue and spending to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product next year from 4 per cent in 2013, Najib said in his annual budget on Oct. 25. The economy will expand 5 per cent to 5.5 per cent next year from an estimated 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent in 2013, according to the finance ministry’s economic report issued the same day.
“The goods and services tax is being seen as a fiscally responsible move and this will enhance the investment appeal of Malaysia,” said Nick Verdi, a foreign-exchange strategist at Barclays Plc in Singapore. “The budget was taken pretty favorably by markets.”
The ringgit led gains in Asia, rising 0.7 per cent to 3.1350 per dollar as of 10:23 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That was the biggest increase since Oct. 17. It earlier touched 3.1232, the strongest level since June 17. The yield on the sovereign bonds due March 2023 held at 3.59 percent, the lowest level since July 8.
The government also cut subsidies on sugar last week after raising fuel prices in September to rein in the deficit that’s been running since 1998.
Malaysia’s debt-to-GDP level may rise to 54.8 per cent this year from 53.3 per cent in 2012, according to the finance ministry’s report. Foreign holdings of the nation’s government bonds climbed to 31 per cent as of June from 11.4 per cent at the end of 2008, the report said.
“The measured action plans demonstrate the government’s conviction to strengthen its fiscal health to avoid the risk of ratings downgrades” and should help to ease concerns about the nation’s financial position, Lee Heng Guie, an economist at CIMB Group Holdings Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur, wrote in an Oct. 26 research note.
In outlining plans to strengthen the government’s finances, Najib is adjusting his focus to avoid a rating downgrade after giving handouts and pay increases for civil servants to woo voters before elections were held on May 5.
The budget gives important input to Fitch’s ongoing assessment of Malaysia’s public finances and credit profile, analyst Andrew Colquhoun said in e-mailed statement on Oct. 25. The negative credit outlook reflects the risk that a broader public sector deficit beyond the federal government will drive emergence of a current-account deficit, he added.
The current-account surplus may narrow to RM26.6 billion (US$8.5 billion) this year from RM57.3 billion in 2012, according to the finance ministry report.
One-month implied volatility in the ringgit, a measure of expected moves in the exchange rate used to price options, fell nine basis points, or 0.09 percentage point, to 8.23 per cent. The cost to insure Malaysian government debt using five-year credit-default swaps dropped to 108.8 on Oct. 25, the lowest level since Oct. 17, CMA prices show. That’s down from 131.5 at the end of last month.
The government will cap debt service charges at below 15 per cent of revenue and total federal government debt within 55 per cent of GDP to make sure its finances remain healthy, the finance ministry said in its report.
The budget “will translate to a bullish outlook for the ringgit,” Malayan Banking Bhd analysts led by Saktiandi Supaat in Kuala Lumpur wrote in an Oct. 25 research note. -- BLOOMBERG