COLOMBO: The Sri Lankan rupee ended slightly weaker on Monday, as foreign investors continued to exit from bonds and stocks as a lingering political crisis weighed on market sentiment ahead of a key ruling by the island nation’s Supreme Court.
The ruling will determine if the current parliament can continue in the next year or if an election should be held. The decision could help end the political crisis.
Foreigners sold a net 230.9 million rupees ($1.29 million) worth of stocks on Monday, and they have been net sellers of 9.8 billion rupees since the political crisis began on Oct. 26. The bond market saw outflows of about 51.2 billion rupees between Oct. 25 and Dec. 5, central bank data showed.
Foreign investors sold a net 17 billion rupees ($95.3 million) worth of government securities in the week ended on Nov. 5, the highest weekly net outflows since the third week of February 2017.
The stock market had net foreign outflows to the tune of 929.1 million rupees last week.
The rupee ended at 179.00/20 per dollar on Monday, compared with 178.70/85 in the previous session. ** Credit rating agencies Fitch and S&P downgraded Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating last week, citing refinancing risks and an uncertain policy outlook, after President Maithripala Sirisena’s sacking of his prime minister in October triggered the political crisis.
On Wednesday, Fitch downgraded Sri Lanka’s financial institutions and Sri Lanka Telecom, citing the sovereign downgrade. ,
This year, there have been 19 billion rupees of outflows from stocks and 143.4 billion rupees from government securities, the latest data from the bourse and central bank data showed.
The rupee hit a record low of 180.85 per dollar on Nov. 28, surpassing its previous low of 180.50 hit the previous day. It has weakened about 3.3 percent since the political crisis began.
The currency fell 1.8 percent in November and has slid 16.5 percent so far this year. ** Moody’s downgraded Sri Lanka on Nov. 20 for the first time since it started rating the country in 2010, blaming the political turmoil for aggravating its already problematic finances.
The political paralysis remains the main concern for investors. While Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Sirisena have failed to win support in parliament for their new government, the deposed prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s coalition, which claims it does have majority support in parliament, has not been allowed to try to form a government. Although Rajapaksa was ousted via two confidence votes, he has refused to step down.
The central bank on Nov. 14 unexpectedly raised its main interest rates to defend the rupee, which has faltered as foreign capital outflows pick up due to the domestic crisis as well as rising US interest rates.
Five-year government bond yields have risen 60 basis points since the political crisis unfolded on Oct. 26, while yields on Sri Lanka’s dollar bonds due in 2022 have risen by more than a percentage point to 8.16 percent since then.
The Colombo stock index fell 0.42 percent to 6,043.49 on Monday. It rose 0.83 percent last week after a 1.5 percent rise in the previous week. It has declined 4.7 percent so far this year.
Stock market turnover was 569.