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Rupee ends weaker; stocks gain for sixth session

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(Colombo) REUTERS: The Sri Lankan rupee ended 0.5 percent weaker yesterday due to importer dollar demand, but greenback inflows from inward remittances ahead of the traditional New Year capped further decline, while stocks jumped 1 percent, sources said. 


The currency stood at 174.70/85 to the dollar, compared with Wednesday’s close of 174.60/80. 

The island nation’s currency gained 2.1 percent in the six sessions through Tuesday, and 4.5 percent so far this year, as exporters converted dollars and foreign investors purchased government securities amid stabilising investor confidence after the country repaid a US$1 billion sovereign bond in mid-January. 


There was a steady flow of inward remittances, ahead of the Sinhala-Hindu New Year on April 14. 


Sri Lanka was plunged into political turmoil in October when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and then dissolved parliament. A court later ruled the move was unconstitutional, and Wickremesinghe was reinstalled as Premier. 


Investor sentiment took a big hit as a result of the 51-day political crisis, leading to credit rating downgrades and an outflow of foreign funds from government securities. 
The rupee dropped 16 percent in 2018, and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia due to heavy foreign outflows. 


Foreign investors bought a net Rs.1.6 billion worth of government securities in the week ended March 27, the fourth net inflow in six weeks, extending year-to-date net foreign buying to Rs. 3.3 billion, the latest Central Bank data showed. 


The Colombo Stock Exchange index ended 1.0 percent higher at 5,653.43 on Thursday rising for the sixth straight session, its highest close since March 11. 
The benchmark stock index rose 0.31 percent last week, recording its first weekly gain in eight weeks. The index has declined 6.6 percent so far this year. 
The market awaits some positive news from the third and final vote on the 2019 budget scheduled for April 5, market sources said. 


Turnover came in at Rs.563.6 million (US$3.23 million), less than this year’s daily average of Rs.638.98 million. Last year’s daily average came in at Rs.834 million. 
Foreign investors sold a net Rs.257.5 million worth of shares yesterday, extending the year to date net foreign outflow to Rs.5.8 billion worth of equities. 


The latest budget aims to increase government spending by 13 percent in 2019, during which the presidential election must be held, while it has set an ambitious goal to reduce a large fiscal deficit.

 


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