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3-month Sibor down 20% from April high

THE key three-month Sibor or Singapore interbank offered rate has fallen almost 20 per cent from the year high of 1.027 per cent on April 9.

On Tuesday, the three-month Sibor which is used to price home loans and other consumer lending, stood at 0.830 per cent.

But this is likely to be a brief respite for homebuyers as economists think the US dollar strength is intact and when the US hikes interest rates in the second half of this year, as expected, local interest rates will zip higher again.

Another local interest rate, the three-month SOR or swap offer rate - typically used to price corporate loans - has fallen even more.

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It is down some 32 per cent from the high of 1.132 per cent on March 24.

On May 22 the SOR, which is more volatile, was quoted at 0.767 per cent, which is slightly higher than this month's low of 0.710 per cent on May 18.

The jumps in both the Sibor and SOR from last December to their respective 2015 peaks were on the back of a rally in the greenback which rose to a high of S$1.39 per US$1 on March 18.

After the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) left monetary policy unchanged in its April review, the Singapore dollar (SGD) recovered somewhat to S$1.32 on April 30. Since then the SGD has begun retreating again, and was quoted at S$1.35 on Tuesday.

Said Eugene Leow, DBS Bank economist: "I actually thought that Sibor and SOR were too high for a while. The recent pullback is probably best thought of as a normalisation from overly high levels."

Speaking about the SOR movements, Victor Yong, United Overseas Bank rates strategist said that the initial correction in SOR was driven by the downgrading of expectations over MAS easing in April.

"Speculative currency positioning drove the initial overshooting and was similarly responsible for the subsequent correction when MAS kept policy unchanged," said Mr Yong.

"Domestic funding demand and the expectation that the US Federal Reserve will start their rate normalisation this year will keep SORs supported into the end of the year," he said.

UOB's year end three-month SOR and Sibor is at 1.40 per cent and 1.30 per cent respectively. Its year-end USD/SGD forecast is 1.40, Mr Yong added.

OCBC Bank's Selena Ling said that US Fed chair Janet Yellen is still reiterating that a lift-off later this year is likely, so the weak USD may not last past summer.

Last Friday Ms Yellen said that she expects to hike interest rates "at some point this year".

"We are still keeping our year-end three-month Sibor 1.35 per cent forecast for now," said Ms Ling.