The Week Ahead: Focus on committee stage of Budget 2021, Covid-19 vaccine developments

TheEdge Tue, Dec 01, 2020 03:00pm - 3 months ago

Budget 2021 is scheduled to go through the committee stage this week, after it passed the policy stage through voice voting at the Dewan Rakyat last Thursday.

While support for the budget seems to be a tacit approval for the current government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin by the majority of the members of parliament, Opposition politicians say the amendments presented lacked details.

During his winding-up session last Thursday, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz announced five amendments to the budget. These included increasing the number of people eligible for withdrawals from Account 1 of the Employees Provident Fund to around eight million members whose incomes have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, extending the loan moratorium for small and medium enterprises and the B40 group, as well as giving one-off payments to more frontliners.

Some of the Opposition politicians say they plan to use the committee stage to question and possibly reject some of the clauses of the budget by forcing bloc voting.

The passing of the budget at the policy level helped the ringgit strengthen to its strongest level against the US dollar since Jan 24, erasing all of its year-to-date losses against the greenback. The ringgit had strengthened to 4.0685 per dollar as at last Friday.

The strengthening of the ringgit could continue this week following the developments on the Covid-19 vaccines on both the international and domestic fronts. Last Friday, the government announced that it had signed a deal with Pfizer to obtain 12.8 million doses of its vaccine.

According to online financial trading and investing provider FXTM, the developments surrounding the vaccines are expected to dominate market sentiment this week, with risk assets set to react according to the changing tides in the global economy.

Upcoming data in the country include the Producer Price Index for local production and the monthly statistical bulletin on Nov 30 and the external trade indices on Dec 4 from the Department of Statistics.

Bank Negara Malaysia will release its international reserves data as at end-October and the monthly highlights and statistics on Nov 30.

The IHS Markit Malaysia Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) will be released on Dec 1. The index fell to 48.5 in October from 49.0 in September, the third straight month of contraction.

Across the Causeway, Singapore will release the data for bank loans and money supply as at end-September on Monday, followed by the Markit Overall Singapore PMI and the official PMI on Thursday.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will be making its monetary policy decision on Dec 1. UOB Global Economics & Markets Research says it does not expect a change in RBA’s monetary policy after a slew of easing measures, including the reduction in the official cash rate to 0.10% and a programme of government bond purchases, was introduced.

Australia will also be releasing its 3Q GDP numbers on Wednesday. Citing a Bloomberg poll, UOB says the country’s GDP is expected to rebound 2.2% quarter on quarter but remain in a year-on-year contraction, albeit at a more benign pace of -4.9%.

The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) monetary policy decision will be released on Friday. A Bloomberg poll expects no change but UOB expects a 25 basis-point cut to 3.75% from 4%.

China is expected to release its official manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMI surveys for November on Monday.

The 180th (Ordinary) meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) will take place in Vienna, Austria, on Monday, followed by the 12th Opec and non-Opec ministerial meeting on Tuesday.

Opec is meeting to decide whether to proceed with a production increase of 1.9 million barrels a day from January 2021. UOB quotes Bloomberg as saying “the coalition has signalled it is inclined to delay the hike”.

All 1Malaysia Development Bhd-linked court proceedings and Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s graft and money laundering trials this week have been postponed.

Meanwhile, the Federal Court is scheduled to hear Malaysiakini’s appeal to quash the Appeals Court’s ruling on a defamation suit in favour of Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM). The apex court could make a landmark ruling with its decision.

RAGM had sued the online news portal and Bukit Koman resident and activist Shirley Hue Shieh Lee over articles that the company had used cyanide and caused a deterioration in the residents’ health.

On the corporate front, some of the companies holding their annual general meetings and extraordinary general meetings are Bonia Corp Bhd (AGM) on Monday, YTL Power International Bhd and YTL Corp Bhd (AGM and EGM) on Tuesday, Hibiscus Petroleum Bhd and Supermax Corp Bhd (AGMs) on Wednesday and GD Express Carrier Bhd (AGM and EGM) on Thursday.

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