Record sukuk yields may make it tough to rein in budget deficit

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s goal of reining in the budget deficit looks set to get tougher as a unit of the nation’s biggest lender predicts borrowing costs on Islamic bonds will climb to a record. Maybank Islamic Asset Management says benchmark sukuk yields may rise to 5% this year should the United States raise interest rates to 1.25% from a maximum 0.5% now, and if investors price in further tightening in the following 12 months. Higher yields on government debt may complicate Najib’s efforts to fund a US$444bil development programme to build railways, roads and power plants. The ringgit is already down 2.2% in 2016 as a selloff in Chinese stocks sparked risk aversion.