Even prior to China’s devaluation of the yuan, Malaysian stocks and the iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF (NYSEArca: EWM) were struggling.
Beijing’s decision to lower the Chinese currency has pressured scores of single-country exchange traded funds tracking Asian equities with market observers seeing few as a vulnerable to yuan downside as Malaysia. EWM, the lone Malaysia, is down nearly 18% over the past month and more than 21% over the past 90 days.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has been cutting down on government subsidies to limit fiscal risks in an effort to steer the country toward high-income status and toward more domestic consumption. Consumption is now said account for over half of Malaysia’s gross domestic product. [Malaysia Economy Gains Strength]
While some emerging markets, India being a prime example, have benefited from sliding oil prices, Malaysia is not one of those markets. In fact, the country and EWM have been rocked by plunging commodities prices.
Malaysian stocks EWM have belied the country’s potential as a beacon of strength at a time of tumult for emerging markets equities. Some market observers have posited that the country’s robust foreign currency reserves and net oil importer status would help endure slumps in developing world stocks.
Investors should be careful with using Malaysia’s now lost reputation for being a lower beta emerging market as an excuse to bargain hunt with EWM.
“Trading at 1.6 times book, MSCI Malaysia is only 13% above the Great Financial Crisis low of 1.4 times. But the problem is the ringgit. ‘The high foreign bond ownership of 48% puts the Ringgit in a vulnerable position,’” reports Shuli Rhen for Barron’s, citing Credit Suisse.