August 26, 2019 / 1:27 PM / 23 days ago

Sri Lanka rupee end tad firmer, central bank's surprise rate cut weigh

COLOMBO, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s rupee ended a tad firmer on Monday, ending a five session losing streak, but worries over further foreign outflows after the central bank cut key monetary policy rates weighed on sentiment. Stocks closed weaker for the fourth straight session.

** Foreign investors sold net 12.9 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended Aug. 21, the worst weekly outflow in eight months, and the year-to-date net foreign outflow was at 40.9 billion rupees, central bank data shows. ** That worst outflow came before the central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates on Friday, its second easing in four months, to boost sluggish growth after tourism and investments plummeted following deadly Easter Day bomb attacks by Islamist militants. ** The rupee ended 0.2% firmer at 179.60/70 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close of 179.80/180.30. It was the first gain in six sessions. The currency, however, is still up 1.7% this year. ** The rupee has eased 1.8% this month as foreign investors sold government bonds tracking the foreign exit from emerging markets. ** Central Bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy on Friday said the central bank was ready to cope with the outflow of total $700 million foreign funds invested in Sri Lankan government securities. Exit of some funds had resulted some pressure on the local currency. ** The central bank in its monetary policy rate statement said the depreciation pressure was expected to be short-lived. ** Meanwhile, the main benchmark stock index fell for the fourth straight session on Monday and ended 0.28% lower at 5,881.72. The index posted a gain of 0.07% last week, after posting its first weekly declines in eight in the previous week. ** Sri Lankan investors have been mainly in a wait-and-see mode since the main opposition party named a hardline former defence chief as its presidential candidate. ** The market has been awaiting details of former defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s campaign as well as the identity of the ruling party’s presidential candidate, who has yet to be announced, dealers said. ** So far this year, the stock index has dropped about 2.8%. ** Equity market turnover was 281.2 million rupees ($1.56 million) on Monday, less than half of this year’s daily average of about 648.5 million rupees so far. Last year’s daily average was 834 million. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 179.8000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez, Editing by William Maclean)

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