March 13, 2012 / 1:15 PM / 7 years ago

Sri Lanka rupee hits record low ahead of rates decision

* Rupee down on importer dlr demand

* Stocks flat at 3-week low

* Foreign inflows of 164.5 million net

COLOMBO, March 13 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s rupee hit new record low on Tuesday ahead of central bank’s monetary policy decision as heavy importer demand could not be met and exporters stayed away in anticipation of further rupee depreciation.

The rupee closed at 123.30/70 a dollar, down from Monday’s close of 122.00/20. Dealers said that the highest trade was done at 123.70.

“Unless you see inflows, the rupee will further depreciate,” a currency dealer told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “There is speculation of inflows into the equity market, but we don’t know when they will come in.”

The rupee has fallen 7.5 percent since Feb. 9, when the central bank stopped defending it. A Reuters monthly forex poll has forecast the rupee to fall as far as 128.50 by the end of August.

The stock market meanwhile moved sideways in thin trade as a lingering pall of negative sentiment due to slower economic growth forecasts and fears of higher interest rates kept investors out.

The island nation’s main share index barely moved down to 5,423.26.

The central bank’s monthly monetary policy decision, due on Wednesday, also kept investors from taking positions, brokers said.

A Reuters poll of 17 analysts predicts the central bank will raise its policy rates by 50 basis points for a second month to 8.00 percent and 9.50 percent respectively.

The day’s turnover was 522.4 million Sri Lanka rupees ($4.29 million) well below last year’s daily average of 2.3 billion. Volume was 14.8 million. Last year’s daily average was a record 102.7 million.

Foreign investors bought shares worth 164.5 million rupees, extending the offshore net foreign inflow to 3.06 billion rupees so far this year, after a net outflow of 19.1 billion last year.

The Colombo bourse is one of the worst performers this year among Asian markets, with a 10.7 percent loss while the majority have been in positive territory. ($1 = 121.9000 Sri Lanka rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Bryson Hull)

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