* USD/INR ends at 54.02/03 vs 54.355/365 on Thursday
* Slowdown in econ is less supportive of ratings - S&P
* Rupee gains for second week, up 0.5 pct
By Subhadip Sircar
MUMBAI, March 15 (Reuters) - The Indian rupee rose to a two-week high on Friday, notching up a second consecutive week of gains, helped by inflows tied to a domestic share sale and by a weaker dollar after strong U.S. data raised chances of an early retreat from monetary easing.
The government was selling a 5 percent stake in state-run National Aluminium Co Ltd to raise at least 5.1 billion rupees ($93.91 million).
The rupee also benefited as the dollar weakened globally after strong U.S. economic data raised the prospect the U.S. Federal Reserve may retreat earlier from its monetary easing programme.
Still, investors are widely looking ahead at the Reserve Bank of India’s policy review on Tuesday amid expectations that the central bank will cut interest rates by 25 basis points in a bid to support economic growth.
“Corporate selling in the morning and gains in the euro have helped the rupee despite stocks turning negative,” said Naveen Raghuvanshi, associate vice president at Development Credit Bank.
“If there is a rate cut on Tuesday, equities may gain and the rupee may rise to 53.70-53.75 levels.”
The partially convertible rupee closed at 54.02/03 per dollar versus its previous close of 54.355/365. It rose to 53.97 in the session, the highest level since Feb. 28.
The rupee gained 0.6 percent on the day, its biggest daily rise since Jan. 30. For the week, it rose 0.5 percent.
Broader gains were capped after a Standard & Poor’s analyst said the slowdown in India’s growth was less supportive for the country’s sovereign credit ratings.
S&P rated India at “BBB-minus”, one notch above junk, and cut its outlook to “negative” from “stable” last year, denoting a one-in-three possibility of a ratings downgrade.
In the offshore non-deliverable forwards, the one-month contract was at 54.44, while the three-month was at 55.02.
In the currency futures market, the most-traded near-month dollar/rupee contracts on the National Stock Exchange, the MCX-SX and the United Stock Exchange all closed at around 54.19 with a total traded volume of $5.1 billion. ($1 = 54.3100 Indian rupees) (Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)