Malaysia's economy rose a slower-than-expected 5.3 percent in the third quarter, the slowest expansion this year, but the central bank Monday ruled out any moves to lower interest rates to boost growth.
The economy grew at a blistering 10.1 percent in the first quarter and 8.9 percent in the second quarter.
Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz warned growth would likely shrink further into the first quarter of 2011 amid increased uncertainties over the sustainability of the global economic recovery, but predicted the economy can exceed the official growth forecast of 6 percent this year.
"We are very likely to achieve a 6 to 7 percent growth this year," she told a news conference. "We see growth in the second half of the year and going into the first quarter moderating. It will strengthen again in the second half of next year."
Asked whether the central bank may lower interest rates to prop up growth, Zeti said the current level remained "supportive of economic activity" with strong loans growth of around 10 percent.
"We don't see inflation as a major threat. We do see risks to global growth ... the challenge is to ensure we have a sustainable growth" going into 2011, she said. Inflation rose 1.9 percent in the third quarter.
Bank Negara has raised its overnight policy rate — used by commercial banks to set lending rates — three times since March to curb inflation but has since left it unchanged at 2.75 percent. This still remains low compared with 2008 when it was 3.5 percent.
Economists said the third quarter slowdown was in line with Asia's growth moderation but lower than market consensus.
"The growth trajectory is expected to be on the downside in the next six months," said Wan Suhaimi Saidi, economist with Kenanga Investment Bank. He forecast full-year growth at 6.8 percent and slowing to 5.5 percent in 2011.
Manufacturing growth fell to 7.5 percent in the third quarter after double-digit growth in the first half of the year. The mining sector contracted 1 percent and growth in the services and construction sector also moderated except for agriculture, which was higher at 2.7 percent.
Zeti said a stronger local currency hasn't hurt growth, which fell due to weak overseas demand. The ringgit, which is hovering at 3.10 to the dollar, has gained by more than 10 percent against the dollar so far this year.
The stock market also hit record highs this month and property prices have been rising sharply.
Zeti dismissed any fears of an asset bubble. She said the central bank will keep a rigorous watch but has no plans to restrain capital inflows as the country's financial system remained resilient to cope with any possible risks.
"We are not seeing the formation of asset bubble. We don't see this as a problem. If it is, we are well-positioned to take pre-emptive actions," she added.