Sri Lankan rupee edges down on importer dollar demand; stx up

COLOMBO, Nov 25 (Reuters) – The Sri Lankan rupee was trading weaker on Friday due to dollar demand from importers who fear the economic policies of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump could lead to a rise in the greenback and interest rates.

Dealers said foreign investors might pull out of emerging markets, including Sri Lanka, if the U.S. Federal Reserve raises interest rates next month.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major global peers, was steady at 101.68 on Friday, down from its Thursday peak of 102.05, the highest level since March 2003.

Sri Lanka rupee forwards were active on Friday, with spot-next forwards trading at 148.80/90 per dollar at 0601 GMT, compared with Thursday’s close of 148.65/75.

The spot rupee was hardly traded, but was quoted at 147.90/148.20.

The central bank revised the spot rupee reference rate to 147.95 per dollar on Nov 18, from 147.75 earlier.

“The demand is there and not much of exporter selling,” said a currency dealer, asking not to be named.

Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake said on Thursday that “turbulent times” were the reason for the rupee volatility, adding it was driven by sentiment.

“You will have this rocky thing owing to turbulent times that are created artificially by many theories that are put forward, but at the end of the day you will see the real (value) of the rupee coming out with the strong fiscal policies that we will be adopting,” Karunanayake told reporters in Colombo.

The rupee has been under pressure as exporters have been reluctant to sell dollars due to uncertainties in the local market following the national budget, which has proposed a revision in corporate and withholding taxes.

The currency has also faced pressure due to net selling of government securities by foreign investors after new taxes were proposed in the budget, dealers said.

Foreign investors net sold government securities worth 37.12 billion rupees ($250.81 million) in the five weeks ended Nov. 16, data from the central bank showed.

The trend of rupee depreciation was however expected to ease as investors wait for central bank action after the IMF released the second tranche of a loan, worth $162.6 million, under its $1.5-billion loan programme, dealers said.

Sri Lankan shares were marginally firmer, with the benchmark Colombo stock index up 0.07 percent at 6,257.36 as of 0614 GMT. Turnover stood at 51.2 million rupees ($346,179.85). ($1 = 147.9000 Sri Lankan rupees)

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