Sri Lanka 3-month treasury yields up sharply amidst cash crunch

Dec 18, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s 3-month Treasury bill yields soared by 115 basis points to 20.14 percent in one of the biggest one day gains ever, at Wednesday’s auction, though 6 and 12 month yields were steady, dealers said. The six month average yield was 19.99 percent and the 12-month yield was 19.96 percent, the public debt office, which is part of the Central Bank, said in a statement Wednesday.

The 3-month cut-off yield, the highest rate at which bids are accepted, is estimated by dealers to be at least around 21.25 for 3-months and about 20.60 for 6-months.

Only 298 million rupees were raised from 12-month bills, while 2.2 billion rupees was raised through 6-month bills.

Last week the debt office rejected bids following two weeks of rate rises, but later offered bills on ‘tap’ where lenders could buy bills on a negotiated basis or fixed rates. The bills were offered near the previous week’s average rates.

On Friday two month bills were offered to market participants on a ‘value date’ basis, indicating that cash was needed immediately, which analysts say is an indicator of the extent of an underlying cash crunch.

Both 6 and 12-month bills were available on tap for large volumes after the auction.

With inflation already at 20 percent, the monetary authority now seems to have departed from its usual practice of printing money and taking up a part of the bill issue to keep rates down, analysts said.

Due to flaw in Sri Lanka’s monetary law the Central Bank can intervene in treasuries markets with printed money, but critics say the practice had helped drive inflation up and destabilize the economy over the past 50 years.

In the forex market the rupee steadied against the greenback at 108.94/97 after peaking at 109.08 when a state bank that usually acts for the monetary authority sold dollars, dealers said. Stocks closed virtually flat with turnover driven to 216 million rupees largely by trading in manufacturing, land and property, and banks, finance and insurance stocks.

All Share Price Index was up 2.42 points or 0.10 percent to 2,502.37 while the Milanka index of more liquid stocks fell by 4.42 points or 0.14 percent to 3,263.48.

There was further speculative trading in Radiant Gems with almost 300,000 shares changing hands and the stock closing at 51.75 on the volume weighted average, up 7.25 or 16.29 percent.