Indonesian rupiah sinks to lowest level


    JAKARTA: The Indonesian rupiah on Monday sank to its lowest level against the dollar since the Asian financial crisis 16 years ago, as emerging markets are hit hard by signs of recovery in the US.

    The unit was down 1.8 percent in early afternoon trade, at 12,690 to the dollar, its lowest level since August 1998, around the time Southeast Asia’s biggest economy was devastated by serious financial turmoil.
    In earlier trade, it touched 12,699 to the dollar.

    Like other emerging market currencies, the rupiah has been hit by signs of recovery in the American economy that has led to expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates next year.

    A strengthening US economy has led investors to pull out of riskier emerging markets, where they headed for bigger returns in recent years when Western countries were in the doldrums, and direct their money back towards developed markets.

    Analysts also said that investors had been withdrawing funds from Indonesian government bonds in December, which was starting to have a knock-on effect on the rupiah.

    “There appears to be another bout of investor risk aversion on the global stage,” said Wellian Wiranto, an economist from Singapore-based OCBC Bank.

    The Jakarta benchmark stock market was also down 0.9 percent in early afternoon trade.

    The financial turmoil of 1998 also led to a political crisis that ended the three-decade rule of dictator Suharto.

    Indonesia was hit hard by emerging market jitters last year when the US began winding back its stimulus programme but a series of measures, including interest rate hikes, had helped stabilise the economy.


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