June 18, 2014 / 6:10 AM / 3 years ago

Sri Lanka rupee flat at near 1-year high after cbank keeps rates steady

3 Min Read

COLOMBO, June 18 (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan rupee traded little changed on Wednesday, at its highest level in nearly a year after the central bank held interest rates steady at multi-year lows, dealers said.

Demand for the greenback from importers helped offset inward remittances, dealers said. Also, dollar-buying by a state bank prevented any volatility in the local currency, they said.

The rupee was at 130.22/25 per dollar at 0533 GMT, its highest since June 28 last year, and little changed from Tuesday's close at 130.22/26.

The central bank kept policy rates steady at multi-year lows on Wednesday for a fifth straight month as it expects lending to pick up in the second half of 2014.

"We expect the bids to come down further with lower imports," a currency dealer said on condition of anonymity.

The central bank in a statement said it did not see much demand for imports in April, while the private sector credit growth contracted 3.3 percent year-on-year in the same month, its worst performance since January 2010. The credit grew 4.3 percent in March.

"In view of the increased foreign currency inflows, the central bank has also absorbed around $550 million from the domestic foreign exchange market," the central bank said in the statement.

One of the two state banks, through which the central bank directs the market, bought dollars from select banks at 130.23 rupees, dealers said.

The central bank bought dollars at 130.35 rupees on May 30 but started reducing its buying from then, allowing a gradual appreciation in the rupee.

Central bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal told Reuters on June 6 that the rupee was facing appreciation pressure. The bank was condoning the trend on a gradual basis to allow all stakeholders adjust to the changes.

He had said earlier that the central bank would keep intervening in the currency market to prevent a rapid rise in the rupee.

Dealers said the central bank's intervention has prevented gains in the currency and they expect the rupee to face upward pressure until credit growth and imports pick up.

Sri Lanka's main stock index was down 0.19 percent, or 12.03 points, at 6,332.38 as of 0545 GMT. Turnover was 409.4 million Sri Lanka rupees ($3.1 million), with 13.6 million shares changing hands. ($1 = 130.2000 Sri Lankan Rupees) (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Anand Basu)

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