January 19, 2018 / 11:25 AM / 2 years ago

Sri Lanka rupee edges down on importer dollar demand

COLOMBO, Jan 19 (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan rupee closed slightly weaker on Friday as dollar demand from importers and banks surpassed mild selling of the U.S. currency by exporters, dealers said.

The spot rupee ended at 153.90/154.00 per dollar, compared with Thursday’s close of 153.85/95.

“The demand (for dollars) was there from importers and some banks to settle foreigners who are selling bonds,” said a currency dealer.

The rupee might witness volatility with the government’s heavy debt repayment this year, said dealers.

Sri Lanka aims to raise $500 million this month via development bonds, the central bank said last week, as the government faces unprecedented debt repayment this year.

President Maithripala Sirisenea’s administration must repay an estimated 1.97 trillion rupees ($12.85 billion) in 2018 - a record high - including $2.9 billion of foreign loans, and a total of $5.36 billion of interest.

Foreign investors had sold 3.2 billion rupees worth of government securities this year up to Jan. 10, central bank data showed.

The currency fell 2.5 percent last year and 3.9 percent in 2016.

The central bank, while announcing its key economic policies for the year on Jan. 3, said it has allowed more flexibility in determining the exchange rate based on the present market conditions.

It added intervention policies will be adopted consistent with a flexible exchange rate regime and supportive of improving foreign exchange market functionality, and maintaining a competitive exchange rate will be an important objective. (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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