January 18, 2019 / 11:49 AM / a month ago

Sri Lanka rupee extends gains on dollar sales by bank; stocks steady

COLOMBO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - ** Sri Lanka’s rupee closed firmer for a second straight session on Friday, helped by dollar selling by banks and after the IMF said it would resume discussions with the island nation for further disbursal of part of a $1.5 billion loan and the central bank chief said around $5 borrowing in the pipeline could help debt repayments. ** Sri Lanka will receive a loan of $1 billion from Bank of China before the end of the January-March quarter, Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy told Reuters on Thursday, and is in discussions to borrow nearly $5 billion to help the country meet repayments in the coming months. ** Sri Lanka is struggling to repay its foreign loans, with a record $5.9 billion due this year including $2.6 billion in the first three months. ** After a meeting with Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Wednesday the discussions would resume in February, after a political crisis led to talks being delayed by three months. ** The rupee ended at 181.50/65 per dollar on Friday, compared with 181.60/75 in the previous session, with a foreign bank selling dollars, market sources said. On Jan.3, the rupee fell to an all-time low of 183.00 against the dollar. ** The rupee fell 19 percent in 2018, making it one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia, according to Refinitiv data, due to heavy foreign outflows. ** Coomaraswamy on Thursday said the sharp depreciation was a powerful “pro-growth inducement” for the country’s exports. ** The rupee has declined 4.7 percent since a political crisis started in October. That crisis had dented investor sentiment and delayed Sri Lanka’s borrowing plans. ** A series of credit rating downgrades have made it harder for Sri Lanka to borrow as it faces record high repayments. ** The Colombo Stock Index ended 0.02 percent weaker at 5,988.07 on Friday. The benchmark index lost 5 percent in 2018. ** Turnover was 660.8 million rupees ($3.64 million), less than last year’s daily average of 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors sold a net 410.5 million rupees worth of shares on Friday. They have been net sellers of 15.7 billion rupees worth of stocks since a political crisis began on Oct. 26. The bond market saw outflows of 77.9 billion rupees between Oct. 25 and Jan. 9, the latest central bank data showed. ** Foreign investors pulled a net 22.8 billion rupees out of stocks last year, while they net sold 159.8 billion rupees from government securities from January through Dec. 26, bourse and central bank showed data. ** For a report on global markets, click here. ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 181.4000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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