March 26, 2018 / 11:39 AM / a year ago

Sri Lankan rupee closes firmer on exporter dollar sales

COLOMBO, March 26 (Reuters) - The Sri Lankan rupee closed slightly firmer in dull trade on Monday as exporter dollar sales and inward remittances surpassed demand for the U.S. currency by importers, dealers said.

The rupee closed at 156.05/15 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close of 156.10/15.

“There was not much activity today, but the rupee ended tad firmer on exporter dollar sales,” said a currency dealer.

The rupee touched an all-time low of 156.20 per dollar on March 19, a level it touched for the first time on March 16. The rupee has weakened 1.69 percent so far this year after declining 2.5 percent last year and 3.9 percent in 2016.

The currency is expected to remain under pressure on continued importer demand for dollars ahead of the traditional New Year in mid April, dealers said.

A gradual depreciation in the rupee and higher volatility this year are expected on account of debt repayments by the government, they added.

The International Monetary Fund said on March 9 that Sri Lanka’s economy remains vulnerable to adverse shocks due to its large public debt and low external buffers.

The government must repay an estimated 1.97 trillion rupees ($12.68 billion) in 2018 - a record high - including $2.9 billion of foreign loans and a total of $5.36 billion in interest.

Foreign investors sold government securities worth a net 211.7 million rupees in the week ended March 21, central bank data showed. ($1 = 155.9500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)

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