Sri Lanka rejects bond auction again, stocks down

Sept 27, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka rejected all bids for an auction of 2, 3 and 5 year Treasury bonds Thursday following a pattern established in recent months while stocks closed weaker and the rupee held firm against the greenback. Touchwood ended up one rupee at 83 with almost 100,000 shares being traded.

In forex markets the spot dollar traded around 113.46/49 rupees and forward premiums narrowed as exporters sold six and five month forwards dealers said.

Six months forwards fell to 121.10 with swap points narrowing to 7.60 to 7.85 with exporter selling.

However some state names were buying tom dollars at 113.41 at indicating a spot price of 113.48 while offering spot dollars at 113.46 rupees, dealers said. In a separate development the Central Bank delayed this month’s monetary policy statement for the third time and said it would be released at 4.30 pm Friday instead of 7.30 am as was announced earlier.

Earlier in the day the government called bids for 4, 6, 7 and 10 year rupee loans at fixed rates.

The rejection of bids at the auction threatens the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) with re-investment risk.

Officials admitted last week that after an auction is rejected its managers are forced to ‘negotiate’ with the Treasury for a rate to roll-over the bonds it holds.

The auctions were started partly to give fair market rates for EPF money.

Sri Lanka’s state officials and workers are paid a separate pension out of tax-payer money and concern has been rising among the more financially savvy private sector workers at the way the EPF is managed by state officials.

Disturbing information has also emerged that the Fund has got caught up in employment politics within the banks with central bank trade unions interfering in the running of the fund.

On the Colombo bourse share prices ended lower with investors largely inactive although there was some interest in selected shares, brokers said.

Market watchers are closely watching whether attempts would be made tomorrow, to push the stock prices up as fund managers try to ‘window dress’ the value of their portfolio at the end of the quarter.

Last month too saw some unusual price movements at the end of the month which market watchers attributed to window dressing.

The All Share Price Index fell 16.15 points or 0.63 percent to 2,566.13 and the Milanka was down 35.19 points or one percent to 3,473.93. Turnover was 106 million rupees.

“The market was not very active except for some selected shares which moved up,” said Naveen Dullewe of DFCC Stockbrokers.

Distilleries ended up one rupee at 106.25 rupees with 112,900 shares traded.

Two million Seylan Bank non-voting shares changed hands with the stock ending unchanged at eight rupees although it fell to 7.75 during trading.