Stock market ends at one-month closing low; higher rates weigh

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 00:48 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Shares fell to a near one-month low on Monday as investors sold large cap stocks on sentiment dented by a lack of catalysts for buying risky assets, amid concerns over foreign outflows and rising interest rates.

The benchmark Colombo stock index ended 0.28%, or 18.36 points, weaker at 6,552.85, its lowest close since 29 April. It fell 0.94% during last week.

“The sentiment is very weak. All are waiting for some catalysts like a big foreign direct investment or IMF loan inflow or a big IPO,” said Prashan Fernando, Chief Operating officer at Acuity stockbrokers.

Yields on Treasury bills edged up by between five and 27 basis points to near three-year highs at a weekly auction last Wednesday, despite the Central Bank leaving key policy rates steady for a third straight month.

Foreign investors net sold Rs. 66.6 million ($452,446) worth of shares on Monday, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to Rs. 5.64 billion worth of shares.

Turnover stood at Rs. 740.2 million, lower than this year’s daily average of around Rs. 795.9 million.

Shares in top conglomerate John Keells Holdings, ended steady while those in Distilleries Company of Sri Lanka edged down 0.2%. The two stocks collectively accounted for 72% of the day’s turnover.

Shares in Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc fell 1.78%, while those in Sri Lanka Telecom Plc dropped 2.68% and Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc fell 0.77%, dragging the overall index down.

Rupee forwards end weaker on importer dollar demand

Reuters: Rupee forwards ended weaker on Monday on dollar demand from importers amid fears the currency could weaken further if the Government increased spending following the country’s worst natural disaster since 2004, dealers said.

Dollar/rupee forwards, known as spot next, ended at 148.20/50 per dollar, weaker than Friday’s close of 147.55/60.

Spot next, which acts as a proxy for the spot currency, indicates the exchange rate for the day following conventional spot settlement, which is three days ahead for Monday’s trade.

“There was importer (dollar) demand. We have seen some exporter conversions coming in when the rupee touched 148.50 and also a State bank sold dollars to select traders from 147.50 to 147.80,” a currency dealer said.

Central Bank officials were not available for comment.

Another dealer said downward pressure on the rupee would persist despite expected inflows.

“We do not expect the rupee to appreciate sharply in the event of inflows from loans as the government has expected.”

The spot currency did not trade on Monday.

The spot rupee reference rate has been pegged at 145.75, dealers said. The Central Bank had fixed the spot rate at 143.90 per dollar until 2 May.

The cost of landslides and floods caused by days of torrential rain will be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion at the minimum, the Government said last week, as the Indian Ocean island struggles to recover from a cyclonic storm.

Additional government borrowing for post-disaster spending could hurt the currency if there is lack of foreign and local aid, dealers said.

They said the rupee continued to face pressure despite foreign inflows into Government securities and expectations of further inflows.

Foreign investors were net buyers of Rs. 7.23 billion ($49.28 million) in the week ended 25 May, latest Central Bank data showed.

The Government is in the process of borrowing up to $3.5 billion from foreign sources via syndicated loans, sovereign bonds, and Islamic bonds, Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said last week.

Analysts said foreign inflows from such loans or bond issues would ease the pressure on the rupee.