Monday, 23 December 2013

Making Malaysia’s Base Lending Rate more relevant

 New interest rate framework expected to be more linked to funding cost

BANK Negara is moving ahead with the times by replacing the outdated base lending rate (BLR) with a more relevant interest rate benchmark.

“The BLR has become less meaningful as a basis for the pricing of loans, as the retail lending rates on new loans being offered by the industry are at a substantial discount to the BLR,’’ The Star reported, quoting governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

For the third quarter this year, the average lending rate (AVL) was 5.4% compared with the BLR of 6.53% and fixed deposit (FD) rate of 3.15% for 12 months.

For the corresponding quarter last yer, the AVL was 5.55% while the BLR was still at 6.53% while the FD rate for 12 months was 3.16%.

The current BLR reflects other costs such as overhead costs.

The new framework will be more related to funding cost, especially marginal funding cost, which is actually how banks are pricing their loans, Zeti said.

While work is underway to come up with a new BLR, the intervention rate under the current BLR framework is expected to nudge upwards, said Nazlee Khalifah, the chief corporate strategist of Affin Bank.

Under the current BLR regime, the intervention rate of 3% is expected to increase 25 basis points by next June, said Nazlee.

The upcoming BLR is being discussed with a concept paper expected next month.

‘“They have to think of how to prevent capital flight as interest rates in the United States may rise and attract capital back to the country,’’ said Nazlee.

Beginning next January, the Fed announced it would start pulling back its bond buying from US$85bil per month to US$75bil.

Instead, it will provide forward guidance on interest rates which are expected to remain low, in view of US unemployment being above 6.5% and inflation kept low.

The US$1 trillion stimulus programme has been a huge success but this is the journey back to fundamentals.

The world economy is being weaned of easy money and every player has to play his part in ensuring recovery and sustainability.

It is not enough for just the regulators to be keeping an eagle eye on miscreants but the participants themselves have to know their limits.

The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission is cracking down on insider trading.

In a landmark ruling, a Hong Kong court has ordered Du Jun to pay 297 investors almost HK$24mil for the money he earned from his illegal dealing in 2007, said the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Last year, 7,700 investors who bought shares of Hontex International were paid back after a court ordered the sport fabric maker to pay HK$1.03bil to small shareholders for allegedly misleading information in its listing prospectus, said the SCMP.

There have been many instances of insider trading but the punishment has become more severe in view of the trend towards investor protection and reimbursement worldwide.

Contributed by Columnist Yap Leng Kuen applauds the tapering off of the era of easy money.