Malaysian ringgit drops to 12-year low: One money changer runs out of ringgit

The Malaysian ringgit tumbled to a 12-year low in offshore markets yesterday, sending some Singaporeans into a buying frenzy.

One Central District money changer told The New Paper that his stock of RM300,000 (S$96,000) was sold out in four hours.

Emerging stock markets and their currencies have been hit by fears that once Mr Donald Trump assumes the US presidency, higher interest rates would spark capital outflows from this region.

At 10am yesterday, the ringgit was trading at 3.1504 per Singdollar according to currency conversion app XE Currency. The rate shown on the app is usually higher than what is offered at the money changers.

Read also: Trump fears fan Asian currency selloff, Singdollar weakens further against US dollar

By noon, it was at 3.0351 at AR Money Exchange at Junction 8. By 2pm, it was between 3.035 and 3.05 at eight money changers at The Arcade in Collyer Quay.

Money changers there told TNP they saw a surge of customers buying ringgit yesterday .

Aksha Exchange opened its shutters at 10am and ran out of its stock of RM300,000 by 2pm.

Its owner said: "We didn't expect to run out. So many people came to buy.

"One week ago, S$1 was RM3. Today, it is RM3.04."

Since Mr Trump won in the Nov 8 election, the money changer has noticed a 30 per cent increase in the number of customers buying ringgit.

This was echoed by Arcade Plaza Traders' administration manager, Mr Deen: "Forty to 50 per cent of our customers today bought ringgit. "

Mr Trump's pro-growth message in his acceptance speech had sent US stock markets and the US dollar soaring.

The president-elect even had a cordial midday meeting yesterday with US President Barack Obama that had a positive impact in the US.

But it was bad news for emerging markets, including Singapore.

Even in the queues, there were winners and losers.

Read also: Malaysia surprises with 4.3% y/y growth, but offshore ringgit tanks

Shop manager Niel Hoh, 28, who makes a trip to Malaysia every two months, saved more than $200.

"I bought RM10,000 for S$3,278.69 today. Two weeks ago, I bought only RM1,500, S$1 was around RM2.90."

But permanent resident David Wong, 55, who works in a Malaysia real estate firm, felt the pinch.

He sold RM20,000, and got about S$6,500 - about S$200 lower than what he would have got four weeks ago.

Money Changers Association Second vice-president Danny Yoong, 48, observed that ringgit-buying remained stable in the past few weeks.

Mr Yoong, who also owns Bon Voyage Money Changer, said: "But there are signs that the ringgit is weakening, and demand for ringgit may become high.

"There are also some customers who wait to see whether the ringgit rate will go down even further."

He added that the Singdollar is not doing well against the US dollar, and sees a 10 per cent increase in people selling US dollar.

ELECTION

"Before the election, Singdollar was trading at 1.38 to 1.39 per US dollar, but it became around 1.400 to 1.415 after the election," said Mr Yoong.

At 8.56am, the Singdollar was trading at 1.4135 per US dollar - down 0.57 per cent from its close of 1.4054 the previous day.

Bank Negara Malaysia governor Muhammad Ibrahim sought to assure Malaysians that the ringgit's fall is due to speculation among investors and not the country's fundamentals.

But senior economist at Mizuho Singapore, Mr Vishnu Varathan, said the plummeting ringgit will have a short-term impact on the cost of living of Malaysians and Singapore.

He said: "We have many cross-border transactions and involvements. The ringgit also features heavily in Singapore's basket of currencies, so the Singdollar will also be affected."

The Singapore stock market continued its fall following Mr Trump's victory.

After Wednesday's knee-jerk losses, The Straits Times Index continued its downtrend and ended 19.49 points, or 0.69 per cent, lower to 2,814.6, taking the year-to-date performance to -2.36 per cent.


This article was first published on November 12, 2016.
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