January 3, 2019 / 12:25 PM / 3 months ago

Sri Lankan rupee ends steady near record low; shares slightly weaker

COLOMBO, Jan 3 (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 percent 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 currency has weakened about 5.4 percent since a political crisis began on Oct. 26. ** 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 buildup of foreign exchange reserves as an external buffer, he added.

** 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 uneasy 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 expenditures in 2019 and avert a government shutdown from Jan. 1.

** Foreign investors were net sellers of 162.5 million rupees ($889,680) worth of shares on Thursday and they have been net sellers of 13.5 billion rupees worth of stocks since the political crisis began. The bond market saw outflows of about 67.6 billion rupees between Oct. 25 and Dec. 26, central bank data showed.

** Last year, there were 22.8 billion rupees of outflows from stocks, while government securities suffered a net 159.8 billion rupees of outflows through to Dec. 26, the latest data from the bourse and central bank showed.

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

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

** For a report on global markets, click here. ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 182.6500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez)

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