Foreign capital inflows signal Malaysia's brightening prospects for economic recovery – Tengku Zafrul
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 – Malaysia registered foreign capital inflows of RM7.7 billion for the month of August 2021, marking the highest monthly net inflow since June 2020, and offsetting the declines in the two preceding months, said Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.
Foreigners turned net buyers in the ringgit bond market with a total value of RM6.6 billion (July 2021: -RM3.6 billion), and Malaysian equities at RM1.1 billion (July 2021: -RM1.3 billion).
Malaysia has been registering net foreign capital inflows thanks to the positive progress of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), which has improved the overall public health situation, as well as enabling gradual reopening of economic sectors through the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). This sets the tone for Malaysia’s stronger economic recovery in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021, the finance minister said.
Although Malaysia’s economic outlook has remained challenged by persistently elevated infection rates, positive progress on vaccination and on controlling critical COVID-19 cases are expected to spur growth.
Further, several states have shifted to Phases Two and Three of the NRP. This includes the Klang Valley and Putrajaya, which transitioned to Phase Two on Sept 10, 2021, predicating a wider reopening of economic sectors for the nation’s most populous states.
“These improved growth prospects have brought back investors’ confidence in Malaysia’s capital market,” Tengku Zafrul said.
August marked the first month of net foreign buying of Malaysian equities since June 2019, with foreign net selling showing clear signs of tapering. Malaysia’s local benchmark index, the FBMKLCI, which fell as much as 5.7% year-to-date, managed to recover 50% of its losses over the last fortnight.
This is a testament to investors and fund managers’ confidence in the nation’s economic growth prospects, as well as continuity of policies. Attractive valuations relative to other
markets within the region have also been a major draw for foreign fund inflows, he said. In terms of the ringgit bond market, foreign inflows in August 2021 were mainly in Malaysian Government Securities (MGS) valued at RM3.1 billion (July 2021: -RM3.6 billion); and Malaysian Government Investment Issues (MGII) at RM3.2 billion (July 2021: RM425 million). The corporate bond market segment also saw higher net foreign inflows, valued at RM267 million (July 2021: +RM62 million).
As at end-August 2021, foreign holdings of Malaysian government bonds rose by RM23.9 billion to RM226.1 billion, comprising RM191.7 billion or 40.3% of total MGS; and RM34.4 billion or 8.6% of total MGII.
As at June 2021, more than 50% of the foreign holdings of Malaysian government bonds comprised long-term investors. This included other central banks and governments (32.4%); pension funds (18.4%); and insurance companies (2.2%).
The outlook for the fourth quarter (Q4 2021) seems brighter as rapid vaccination rates enable the reopening of more economic sectors. This will boost the prospects for improved consumption from households and businesses’ pent-up demand, Tengku Zafrul said. But the outlook for the third quarter of 2021 may be challenging due to the prolonged Phase One for several states such as Selangor, which are significant contributors to the nation’s GDP.
Other factors underpinning Malaysia’s growth prospect include stronger external demand (for products such as electrical and electronics (E&E), and hydrocarbons); an increase in commodity prices, and continued investment in large-scale infrastructure projects with high multiplier impact.