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POSTED AT 10:25 AM 25-01-2019

Rupee edges up on exporter dollar sales; stocks gain

REUTERS:  Sri Lanka’s rupee closed slightly firmer on Thursday due to dollar selling by exporters, while stocks edged higher for a second straight session, moving away from an eight-week closing low hit early this week. 

The rupee closed at 181.60/80 per dollar, compared with 182.15/25 in the previous session, market sources said. On 3 January, the rupee fell to an all-time low of 183.00 against the dollar. 

The currency has appreciated 0.6% so far this year, Refinitiv data showed. 

Worries over heavy debt repayment after a 51-day political crisis have dented investor sentiment as the county 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. 

The Central Bank chief last week said around $5 billion borrowing in the pipeline could help debt repayments. 

The International Monetary Fund last week said it would resume discussions for further disbursal of part of a $1.5 billion loan amid investor worries of heavy debt repayments. 

The rupee fell 16% in 2018, according to the Central Bank data. It was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia, Refinitiv data showed, due to heavy foreign outflows. 

The rupee has declined 4.9% 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 after the political crisis have made it harder for Sri Lanka to borrow as it faces record high repayments. 

The Colombo Stock Index ended 0.15% firmer at 5,960.34 on Thursday. The benchmark index lost 5% in 2018. Turnover was Rs. 725.2 million, less than last year’s daily average of Rs. 834 million. 

Foreign investors were net buyers for a third straight session on Thursday, buying a net Rs. 310.7 million worth of shares. But they have been net sellers of Rs. 2.05 billion worth of stocks so far this year and Rs. 15.4 billion since a political crisis began on 26 October 2018. 

The bond market saw outflows of Rs. 86.7 billion between 25 October and 16 January, the latest Central Bank data showed. 

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