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Shares fall to 5-1/2-year low; rupee steady

9 March 2019 12:01 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares fell to a near 5-1/2-year low yesterday as investors sold large cap stocks, outweighing purchases by foreigners. 
The Colombo Stock Exchange index settled 0.52 percent lower at 5,722.25, its lowest close since Sept. 18, 2013. 


The benchmark stock index fell 1.63 percent for the week, recording its third straight weekly fall. It declined 2.9 percent in February, its second straight monthly fall. 
The turnover was Rs.2 billion (US$11.21 million), more than double of last year’s daily average of Rs.834 million. 


Foreign investors bought a net Rs.145 million worth of shares yesterday, but they have been net sellers of Rs.5.97 billion worth of equities so far this year. 
The rupee closed steady as the island nation sold US$2.4 billion in five-year and 10-year U.S. dollar-denominated bonds, successfully tapping the international markets at a time the country is facing strains on its finances. 


The sale is crucial for the island nation to boost investor sentiment which was dented by rating downgrades by all three rating agencies after a political crisis in October. 
The rupee closed unchanged at 178.40/60 per dollar for a third day. Market sources said they expected inflows from the sovereign bond sale will help boost the rupee. 

Sri Lankan Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Tuesday presented the 2019 budget that raises spending while setting an ambitious goal to reduce the country’s large fiscal deficit. 
The IMF last week agreed to extend Sri Lanka’s US$1.5 billion loan programme by one year and has reached staff-level agreement to disburse the sixth tranche of the loan. 
The rupee has climbed 2.4 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. 


Worries over heavy debt repayment after the 51-day political crisis that resulted in a series of credit-rating downgrades dented investor sentiment as the country struggled to repay its foreign loans. 


The rupee dropped 16 percent in 2018, and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia due to heavy foreign outflows. 


Foreign investors exited government securities for the second straight week in the week ended Feb. 27, with net sales of Rs.3.4 billion, the Central Bank’s latest data showed. 

 

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