Rupee ends steady; shares slightly weaker

Friday, 4 January 2019 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


REUTERS: The Sri Lankan rupee ended steady near a record low on Thursday as foreign fund outflows mainly, from government bonds, continued amid dented investor sentiment after a recent political crisis.  The currency fell 19% in 2018, making it one of the worst performing currencies in Asia, as heavy foreign outflows from government securities weighed. 

The rupee traded at an all-time low of 183.00 to the dollar, which it hit on Monday, before ending at 182.80/90, compared with 182.80/183.00 in the previous session, market sources said. 

The Colombo stock index ended 0.06% weaker at 6,058.48 on Thursday. Turnover was Rs. 804.7 million, less than last year’s daily average of Rs. 834 million. The Bourse lost 5% in 2018. 

The currency has weakened about 5.4% since a political crisis began on 26 October. 

The Central Bank will stick to an exchange rate policy of cautious intervention at times of excessive volatility in the forex market, Central Bank Chief Indrajit Coomaraswamy said on Wednesday, launching economic policies for 2019. 

That policy is designed to maintain the competitiveness of the exchange rate and support the rebalancing of the current account, thereby supporting a gradual build-up of foreign exchange reserves as an external buffer, he added. 

President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a Cabinet of Ministers from his rival party on 21 December after he was forced to reinstate Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister, 51 days after he was sacked. 

The political crisis is expected to ease, though uneasy relations between the two men could cause fiscal problems, analysts have said. Parliament has approved Rs. 1.77 trillion ($9.39 billion) to meet the first four months of expenditures in 2019 and avert a government shutdown from 1 January. 

Foreign investors were net sellers of Rs. 162.5 million ($889,680) worth of shares on Thursday and they have been net sellers of Rs. 13.5 billion worth of stocks since the political crisis began. The bond market saw outflows of about Rs. 67.6 billion between 25 October and 26 December, Central Bank data showed. 

Last year, there were Rs. 22.8 billion of outflows from stocks, while Government securities suffered a net Rs. 159.8 billion of outflows through to 26 December, the latest data from the Bourse and Central Bank showed. 

Credit agencies Fitch and S&P downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating in early December, citing refinancing risks and an uncertain policy outlook.