Sri Lankan rupee steady in dull trade; bond holders book profit

Aug 01, 2016 (Reuters) – The Sri Lankan rupee was steady in thin-volume trade on Monday as the market waited to watch the impact of last week’s policy rate hike announcement, while some bond holders sold their stakes to book profits, dealers said.

After market hours on Thursday, the central bank raised its key interest rates by 50 basis points each in a surprise move aimed at curbing stubbornly high credit growth that is adding to the concerns about inflationary pressures.

One-week rupee forwards, which have been acting as a proxy for the spot rupee, were at 146.15/30 per dollar at 0645 GMT, hardly changed from Friday’s close of 146.20/23.

The spot rupee is tightly managed by the central bank, and market participants use the forward market levels for guidance on the currency.

“The market has been quiet today. We saw a few bond holders making profit after the rate hike,” said a currency dealer, asking not to be named.

“Now the central bank has given a clear direction and the market expects a similar direction from the government in terms of foreign investments and taxes.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is expected to announce the government’s economic policy framework this month, central bank chief Indrajith Coomaraswamy told reporters last month.

The rupee is under pressure due to importer dollar demand, and dealers said the market has shrugged off speculation of a strong rise in the rupee as the island nation’s heavy debt repayment reduced dollar availability for the central bank to defend the currency.

The government has to repay more than $1.1 billion in the three months by September-end, central bank data showed.

The spot rupee was not traded on Monday.

Spot-next, which are rupee forwards settled a day after the spot rupee settlement, were steady at 146.05/15 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close.

The Sri Lankan stock index was up 0.13 percent at 6,401.96 as of 0657 GMT, with a turnover of 420.1 million rupees ($2.88 million).