January 7, 2019 / 12:12 PM / 5 months ago

Sri Lankan rupee ends firmer on mild dollar inflows; stocks down

COLOMBO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - ** The Sri Lankan rupee recovered further on Monday, after hitting a record low in the previous week, helped by mild dollar inflows. ** The Colombo Stock Index fell 0.74 percent to settle at 6,022.99. The bourse had lost 5 percent in 2018.

** The turnover was 405.1 million rupees ($2.22 million), less than half of last year’s daily average of 834 million rupees, as investors awaited political cues after last year’s turmoil.

** Foreign investors were net sellers of 205.9 million rupees worth of shares on Monday. They have been net sellers of 13.7 billion rupees worth of stocks since the political crisis began. The bond market saw outflows of about 74.3 billion rupees between Oct. 25 and Jan. 2, the central bank’s latest data showed.

** Last year until Dec. 26, foreign investors pulled out net 22.8 billion rupees from stocks, and 159.8 billion rupees from government securities, data from the bourse and central bank showed.

** The rupee ended at 182.30/40 on Monday, compared with 182.60/80 in the previous session, market sources said. On Thursday, the rupee had fallen to an all-time low of 183.00 against the dollar. ** The currency fell 19 percent in 2018, making it one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia, Refinitiv Eikon data showed, due to heavy foreign outflows.

** The currency has declined about 5.1 percent since a political crisis began on Oct. 26. ** The central bank last week said it will stick to an exchange rate policy of cautious intervention in times of excessive volatility in the forex market.

** That policy is designed to maintain competitiveness of the exchange rate and support the rebalancing of the current account, thereby supporting a gradual build-up of central bank chief Indrajit Coomaraswamy said on Wednesday, unveiling economic policies for 2019.

** President Maithripala Sirisena appointed a cabinet of ministers from his rival party on Dec. 21 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 tense relations between the two men could cause fiscal problems, analysts have said. Parliament has approved 1.77 trillion rupees ($9.39 billion) to meet the first four months of expenditure in 2019, averting a government shutdown from Jan. 1.

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

** For a report on global markets, click here.

** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 182.2000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

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