KUALA LUMPUR (May 4): Malaysia’s ringgit slumped by the most in two months and South Korea’s won dropped after Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said a U.S. interest-rate increase in June was “a real option.”
The comments sparked a surge in the greenback, with the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rising from the lowest level in a year. Brent crude extended losses on Tuesday, dimming the outlook for Malaysia’s finances as Asia’s only major net oil exporter and sending the ringgit to its weakest since March 29.
While Lockhart said two rate increases are possible this year, futures are only pricing in a 12 percent probability of such a move by June and 55 percent by the final meeting of 2016 in December.
Mitul Kotecha, the head of Asian foreign-exchange and interest-rate strategy at Barclays Plc in Singapore, said the moves lower in regional currencies reflected more of a “market positioning shift” than a fundamental one.
“This partly reflects the dollar’s turnaround last night,” Kotecha said. “That, combined with the fact that there’s been a drop in commodity prices overnight, has weighed on some currencies such as the ringgit.”
The ringgit dropped 1.2 percent to 3.9775 per dollar as of 8:37 a.m. in Kuala Lumpur, the biggest decline since Feb. 17, according to prices from local banks compiled by Bloomberg. It fell to 3.9800 earlier. South Korea’s won declined 0.9 percent to 1,150.90 against the U.S. currency, the steepest loss in almost three weeks.