[I was supposed to post this last week, but better late than never]
With the new year past, I’ve taken the liberty of updating my proprietary Ringgit trade weighted exchange rate indexes. The Ringgit has taken a hammering in 2013…or has it?
From the MYRUSD perspective, it certainly looks like it (index numbers; monthly averages; 2000=100):
The nominal index ended the year 6.0% down, while the real (inflation-adjusted) index fell 7.5%.
But when you look at the exchange rate holistically, taking into account all Malaysia’s major trade partners, nothing quite so dramatically happened (index numbers; monthly averages; 2000=100):
There was the big jump just before the election, but on a year-on-year basis, the Ringgit only fell 1.6% in nominal terms and 1.8% in real terms, which are less than half the standard deviation of either index from the full sample range I use (2000-onwards).
Translation: the movement of the Ringgit last year was well within the historical experience of the last 14 years.
One thing to note here is the divergence between the nominal and the real index, which in this case is indicative of undervaluation as the nominal index is below the real index. This has been building up since mid-2010 or so, and is unusual as the following chart makes clear:
The above pretty much says that the Ringgit is mostly undervalued, to the tune of between 5%-6%, which is somewhat smaller than the divergence I noted here, though that particular analysis was USD specific.
But as usual, there’s considerable heterogeneity in Malaysia’s bilateral exchange rates, so for the sake of completeness, the following covers Malaysia’s major trading partners (i.e. those I’ve included in the trade weighted indexes). All charts are in log percentage difference since the Ringgit was floated in July 2005 – anything above zero represents appreciation, while anything below denotes depreciation:
Top 5 trading partners:
Other major trade partners:
Some quick thoughts on the above:
- First, note that despite the depreciation against the USD over the past year, the Ringgit hasn’t lost much ground from a long term perspective – it’s still about 15% higher than a decade ago.
- MYR has lost ground against the SGD and CNY. Not really surprising, as neither are floating exchange rates and have explicit policies backing currency appreciation in place.
- Within ASEAN, the Ringgit, Baht and Peso move more or less together. The Dong lost a lot of ground in 2009-2010, while the Rupiah has come under considerable pressure recently.
- Against the NIE currencies, the Ringgit has been generally stable over the past five years, although losing a bit of ground over the past year.
- Of the last three, the MYR and AUD maintain the usual tight relationship (both are commodity currencies); is mostly up against the Pound though again losing some ground recently; and separating itself from the Rupee.
One last thing to look at is the evolution in the weights for the indexes, because these are synonymous with a change in Malaysia’s trade patterns. I’m only focusing here on the top 5, because they account for over 60% of Malaysia’s total trade (of the rest, only Thailand and Indonesia exceed 5%):
Note the definite pattern that emerges – the trade shares of Singapore, Europe and Japan are virtually unchanged, while China’s is steadily increasing and the US steadily decreasing.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that trade exposure with the US has fallen – the so-called decoupling thesis – as some of Malaysia’s exports to China will form inputs for China’s exports to the US. However, disentangling the effect is hard if not impossible.
One interesting thing to note is that the combined weight of Malaysia’s China/US trade is fairly stable:
There’s a hint of a declining trend since 2004 (China’s accession to the WTO), but not so much as you’d notice; the rate of decline is in 100ths of a percentage point a year.