COLOMBO, May 19 (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan rupee ended weaker on Friday on importer dollar demand and fewer exporter conversions, even as investors said the currency could weaken further after the central bank decided to buy dollars directly from the market to boost reserves.
Dealers said the state bank dollar sales curbed further decline.
Rupee forwards were active, with spot-next forwards ending at 152.90/153.00 per dollar, compared with Thursday's close of 152.85/90. One-week forwards ended at 153.15/30, compared with the previous session's close of 152.95/153.00.
Sri Lanka's central bank is targeting $1.2 billion in direct market purchases of dollars to boost the island nation's reserves this year, Indrajit Coomaraswamy, the monetary authority's chief, said on Thursday.
That comes after Sri Lanka missed its December-end reserves target agreed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $1.5 billion, 36-month loan.
Coomaraswamy said the central bank has purchased around $400 million directly from the market so far this year.
"There was some (dollar) demand from a foreign bank probably for bond outflow. A state bank sold dollars which prevented the fall," a currency dealer said, asking not to be named.
"Exporters are not converting after the central bank announcement. They are watching the situation and we can see some importer demand."
Dealers said it was not clear weather the state banks sold dollars on behalf the central bank.
Central bank officials were not immediately available for comment.
The spot rupee did not trade on Friday.
The central bank fixed the spot rupee reference rate at 152.50 on May 5.
The central bank has allowed the currency to gradually depreciate since mid-December, revising its spot reference rate multiple times.
$1 = 152.8000 Sri Lankan rupees Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips