Thursday, May 10th, 2018


Dollar, yields slide on soft US inflation

NEW YORK, May 10 — The US dollar slid and US government debt yields fell today as a modest rise in consumer prices in April damped expectations that faster inflation could lead the Federal Reserve to boost interest rates more than expected in…

In Europe, Mylan's rivals try to plug EpiPen shortages

LONDON, May 10 — European makers of emergency allergy treatments are stepping up production of alternative life-saving adrenaline shots to try to fill intermittent shortages of Mylan’s market-leading EpiPen injection. Mylan began warning about…

US consumer prices rebound 0.2pc in April on jump in gasoline

NEW YORK, May 10 — US consumer prices rebounded in April after dipping in March, driven by a surge in gasoline prices and an uptick in housing costs, but the Labor Department report today was tamer than expected. Food prices also rose, as did…

Pakatan Harapan’s pledges won’t derail Malaysian economy’s growth trajectory

PETALING JAYA: With Pakatan Harapan (PH) vowing to abolish the Goods & Services Tax (GST) after its historic win in the 14th general election (GE) on Wednesday, economists do not foresee Malaysia sidetracking from its robust gross domestic product (GDP) growth trajectory and opine that prudent government spending could make up for the loss of tax revenue.

PH leader Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in a press conference today that GST, which was introduced by the past administration, will be abolished, and the Sales and Services Tax (SST) will be reinstated.

Mahathir was sworn in as Malaysia’s 7th prime minister tonight, his second time in office. He was the country’s 4th prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

Speaking to SunBiz in the wake of PH’s election victory, Sunway University Business School Professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng said the abolishment of GST coupled with the scrapping of toll charges will spur private consumption, disposable income and consumer spending, as consumers will be left with additional money to spend, a boon for gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

He projects the measures to move GDP either up or down by between 0.5% and 1%.

“It depends on the policy changes. If GST is abolished, first of course it will increase the disposable income of consumers and in turn their spending, which will boost the economy.
“However, we need to see whether there will be any cutbacks in government spending or if they will be able to find additional sources of revenue to offset the reduction in GST revenue for the government,” Yeah said.

He acknowledged that the abolishment of GST will reduce the government’s flexibility in raising revenue, which in turn leaves less room for reduction of corporate and income taxes.

Meanwhile, with the abolishment of toll collections, PH may be confronted with expenses in the form of compensations to concessionaires, which may impede its spending resources.

However, Yeah said in view of the economy maintaining its robust growth trajectory, it will provide PH with the flexibility of combining and reallocating resources.

The government collected around RM17.2 billion in SST in 2014, while GST collection hit RM44 billion in 2017.

To bridge the gap, Yeah said, there is a need to diversify income streams as well as implement cutbacks in government spending by preventing leakages and wastage.

“Possible revenue sources will be of course Petronas dividend with higher oil prices … in fact, a couple of additional billions coming from Petronas.The other is privatisation, for instance, sale of government assets,” he said.

While acknowledging that privatisation has its pros and cons, he said it could be one of the ways to raise revenue without affecting service to the people.

Yeah noted that the immediate effect that could spring from reviews of mega projects may also result in spending efficiency and reduction in leakages and wastages.

“So it all depends on to what extent … so there are long-term and short-term effects, like for example, if cutting back on the ECRL, the immediate effect is of course reduced investment spending,” he said, referring to the East Coast Rail Line.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Institute of Economic Research senior research fellow Dr Shankaran Nambiar said the economy is likely to maintain its growth trajectory.

“There might be initial hiccups, but as the months progress and as a more solid framework is laid out, confidence will be restored. I think the economy will probably do as well as it did last year, which was 5.9% (growth). I am looking at 5.6-5.8% at the least,” he said.

“Overall, the concerns that plagued the economy in the last few years will be remedied and more confidence will be generated. That’s the promise that has brought PH to power and I am sure Mahathir is set to achieve that,” he added.

Meanwhile, on capital outflows, Yeah said short-term capital outflows are likely to be volatile on the back of political uncertainties but it is unlikely to be a going concern.

“These are so called ‘hot money’ at this juncture I feel there will be some major reaction … some pullout because of political uncertainty but I think we should not be overly concern about inflows and outflows, because this is something every country with open capital markets will experience,” he said.

“The more important focus should be on building the resilience of the economy, and that means attracting long-term capital flows and foreign direct investments rather than be concerned about short-term outflows.”

GE14 outcome reflects growing political maturity: Aberdeen CEO

KUALA LUMPUR: The outcome of Malaysia’s 14th general election reflects a growing level of political maturity and respect for democracy that would be beneficial for the country’s appeal to foreign investors and economic prospects over the medium to longer term.

In a statement issued today, Aberdeen Standard Investments Malaysia CEO Gerald Ambrose said this is a new political dawn for Malaysia, which sees the first ever change of government since the country gained independence from the British in 1957.

“This was a stunning election outcome that few would have predicted. We would expect some market volatility from the election result and possibly some spillover impact on investments,” he said.

Ambrose said it is likely that the larger companies, many of which are government linked, will bear the brunt of any index-linked selling which may take place in the near term.

“More broadly, some of Pakatan Harapan’s election pledges may have diverging impacts on the share prices of specific sectors over the short term,” he said.

Pakatan Harapan’s intention to review all mega infrastructure projects may lead to some initial selling in the construction and cement sectors, while its agenda to mitigate high living costs may enhance consumer sector stocks, such as food manufacturers, consumer staples and retail plays,” Ambrose added. – Bernama

Ringgit expected to see temporary weakness

PETALING JAYA: Economists expect the ringgit to see temporary weakness in the wake of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) victory in Wednesday’s general election, but the condition is expected to be short-lived.

However, the ringgit is not expected to weaken beyond RM4.02 to the US dollar.

PH – led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – swept 122 out of the 222 contested parliament seats, which saw the Barisan Nasional losing its majority after six decades in power. Mahathir was sworn in as Malaysia’s 7th prime minister tonight, his second time in office. He was the country’s 4th prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

Sunway University Business School Professor of Economics Dr Yeah Kim Leng said during the transition of power, the ringgit might be subjected to negative sentiments due to policy uncertainties. But this is expected to abate once PH is able to lay out its policies in more detail and offer clarity upon forming the government.

He said while the volatility of the ringgit is unlikely to be a concern, as supportive global economic conditions and once policy certainties are in place, the currency is likely to see a boost.

“If we get our policies right, the ringgit can strengthen to way back before Tun M pegged the ringgit. That will be the desired outcome. It will also be a desire to see it at the level when they first pegged it. Now is after 20 years and of course when it weakens there other factors, such as oil prices,” he said.

Mahathir imposed capital controls and pegged the ringgit at 3.80 to the US dollar during the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98.

Projecting the ringgit to hover between RM3.80 and RM4.00 in the short term, Yeah said external factors such as the strength of the greenback will also be at play.

Malaysian Institute of Economic Research senior research fellow Dr Shankaran Nambiar said the slip of the ringgit against the greenback is expected to be short-lived given the uncertainties such as the delay in the swearing-in of a new prime minister and security concerns, among others.

He said it is “only fair” for the markets to “react by putting the ringgit down” on the back of these uncertainties. This, he added, is temporary and unlikely to continue.

“I don’t expect that to continue as Mahathir gets into his seat and moves into performance gear. I expect he’ll be able to convince markets that he can correct the inadequacies that have affected the economy.

“I see a rise in the value of the ringgit from RM4.02 to RM 3.80 against the dollar. As Mahathir works to improve fundamentals and perceptions improve, I think sentiments will change and the ringgit will get stronger,” Shankaran said.

Panasonic profit soars on automotive business growth

TOKYO, May 10 — Japanese electronics giant Panasonic today said its full-year net profit surged, helped by growth in its automative-related business. The Osaka-based company said net profit for the fiscal year to March rose 58 per cent to ¥236…

Apple fells plans for Ireland data centre over trees

NEW YORK, May 10 — US tech giant Apple announced today it had shelved plans to build an €850 million (RM4 billion) data centre in Ireland over a court battle with conservationists seeking to preserve a forest. “Several years ago we applied to…

China's ZTE teeters as US ban hits operations

BEIJING, May 10 — Chinese telecom giant ZTE faces a grim future after ceasing major operations due to a US ban on American sales of critical technology to the company, raising the stakes in a trade spat between the world’s two largest economies….

Oil boost helps world stocks turn positive for 2018

LONDON, May 10 — World stocks hit a three-week high today and turned positive for the year as rising oil prices gave energy firms a shot in the arm that countered the effects of increased political uncertainty. Brent crude rose to another 3-1/2…