Sri Lanka money rates spike above penal discount rate

Dec 28, 200 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s overnight rates spiked to 21 percent despite two discount windows that give money at 12.00 percent and 19.00 percent, while a bond auction was rejected by the government’s debt office Friday, dealers said. The debt office was again fishing for money offering bills on ‘tap’ at around 21.30 percent for three months and 20.75 percent for 12-months to meet year-end government cash needs, dealers say.

The central bank has reduced money printing in the final weeks of the year after country-wide inflation jumped to 24.1 percent in October and a controversial new index that the government claims to show ‘true’ inflation rose to 19.3 percent a month later.

Critics say the re-starting of ‘tap’ issues outside the auction process – a throwback to an earlier era – is an indicator of a further deterioration of government securities markets that began in 2004.

The government again rejected a two and three year bond auction Friday. But bonds maturing in 2009 were traded a tad over 20.00 percent today, dealers said.

Overnight markets became tight Friday with rates spiking to 21 percent from 20 percent earlier in the week. The central bank runs a discount window which theoretically gives money at 19.00 percent. Rates later eased to around 15.00 percent.

The spikes happen because full requirements are not fulfilled by the monetary authority, dealer said.

The Central Bank also gives money at 12.00 percent up to four times a month for market participants fulfilling only a part of the requirement. The 19.00 percent window is accessible after that.

The lopsided discount rate structure with overnight rates sometimes falling as low as 12 to 14 percent and spiking above 21 percent has meant that the monetary authority has lost control over rates in the short term.

Policy rates have not been officially raised since February 2007, but various ad hoc methods have been used to tighten monetary policy, which have brought mixed results and turmoil to short term markets.

Meanwhile the spot dollar traded around 108.70/75 rupees.

Colombo stocks closed flat Friday with the last market day of 2008 set for Monday, while turnover rose to 1.64 billion rupees following a National Development Bank (NDB) share transaction.

Over 8.2 million NDB shares changed hands with the counter closing seven rupees higher at 138 rupees, with the 7 million share stake of NDB held by Richard Pieris going at 170 rupees to Jaya Investments, a foreign investment vehicle.

The All Share Price Index closed less than one point higher at 2,538.29 while the Milanka Index shed 1.7 points to close lower at 3,281.27 with 18 million shares being traded and plantations attracting investor interest.

Malwatte Valley plantations closed 8.75 rupees higher at 59.75 while Kelani Valley plantations closed 2.50 rupees higher at 57.50.

Kegalle plantations also closed up two rupees at 54.25.