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CSE dogged by trading halts; political instability takes its toll

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Macroeconomic uncertainty coupled with political instability triggered circuit brakes on the CSE yesterday as well. Margin calls by stock brokers and margin providers pave the way for forced selling of stocks, which negatively impacts the CSE, stock market analysts said.

A margin call occurs when the value of securities in a brokerage account falls below a certain level, known as the maintenance margin, requiring the account holder to deposit additional cash or securities to meet the margin requirement.

Amid those developments the CSE closed after the more active index slumped by 10 per cent for the second consecutive session. The S&P SL 20 index fell by over 5 per cent early in the morning too as investors continue to be bearish over the worsening economic and political crisis.

Yesterday the market closed within minutes of opening after indices crashed, triggering two trading halts. Year to date, CSE has plunged by 50 per cent as against an 80 per cent gain in 2021.

Yesterday both indices moved downwards. The All- Share Price Index went down by 608 points and S and P SL20 declined by 232 points. Turnover stood at Rs 800 million with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Commercial Bank, which crossed 2.2 million shares to the tune of Rs 110 million; its shares traded at Rs 50.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Expolanka Holdings Rs 174 million (1.1 million shares traded), Commercial Bank Rs 160 million (3.2 million shares traded), LOLC Holdings Rs 41.7 million (154,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 26.6 (6.6 million shares traded), Chevron Lubricants Rs 23.7 million (654,000 shares traded), Access Engineering Rs 17.2 million (1.4 million shares traded) and Sunshine Holdings Rs 17 million (645,000 shares traded). During the day 91.7 million share volumes changed hands in 2000 transactions.

Standard and Poor, a rating agency, said it had cut Sri Lanka’s sovereign rating to ‘selective default’.

Individual securities were downgraded to default of D, the rating agency said. Sri Lanka has 30 days to make payment on the relevant coupon which fell due on April 18.

“We do not expect the government to make the coupon payments within 30 calendar days after their due dates, Standard and Poor’s said. Sri Lanka does not plan to restructure domestic debt.

“In our view, achieving a more sustainable fiscal position will require restructuring the government’s local currency debt, S and P said.

Yesterday, the Central Bank announced the official US $ buying rate as Rs 333.88 and the selling rate as Rs 346.49. However, in the kerb market it’s close to Rs 400 per US $, financial sources said.



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A 12-year journey creating sustainable livelihoods in the Northern Province – ILO Knowledge Forum

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‘LEED+ has empowered over 43,000 Families, creating sustainable and inclusive livelihoods in the Northern Province’

International Labour Organization (ILO), successfully conducted a two-day knowledge forum, based on its flagship Local Empowerment through Economic Development and Reconciliation (LEED+) project. Implemented in several districts in the Northern Province, the LEED+ project is nearing its closure after two successful phases, the first of which was initiated in 2011.

This Knowledge Forum is a culmination of the project’s 12-year journey of creating inclusive and sustainable decent work opportunities for rural communities. The project also has a strong focus on vulnerable groups, including women and persons with disabilities.

A part of the ILO’s Global Jobs for Peace and Resilience programme, LEED+ is supported by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), and the Government of Norway. The project was implemented in collaboration with national and sub-national government stakeholders, private sector, as well as grassroots entities.

‘The LEED+ program has directly benefitted more than 43,000 families over the past 12 years providing skills and knowledge to foster business growth and generate sustainable income,’ Australian High Commission Sri Lanka, First Secretary, Development Cooperation, Erika Seymour said.

‘Despite the passage of more than a decade since the conclusion of the civil war, the lasting repercussions continue to affect communities in the Northern Province. Thus, it is crucial for collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors to support these communities and promote development in these regions. The LEED+ project has played a significant role in equipping individuals from these communities with valuable skills, empowering them in their pursuits, and facilitating the attraction of private sector investments’. Commented Royal Norwegian Embassy Sri Lanka, First Secretary/Deputy Head of Mission, Hilde Berg Hansen.

As a result of the 30-year civil conflict, the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, which is home to over a million people, has encountered unique obstacles in achieving socio-economic progress and advancement. With unemployment and poverty rates higher than the national average and the highest share of households in poverty, the Northern Province is among Sri Lanka’s poorest regions. Towards addressing this, in its first phase the LEED project utilized a strategy of revitalizing the northern cooperative sector, alongside connecting small-scale farmers and fishers in the region with businesses from across Sri Lanka. Building on the lessons and success from phase one, in its second phase LEED+ placed greater focus on facilitating partnerships in select agriculture and fisheries value chains. Generating economic incentives for both producers and investors on equal terms, the resulting win-win situations have seen companies expanding their footprint, and setting-up of processing centres in the North, thereby creating further employment opportunities.

As the LEED+ project enters its last year of operation, it aims to implement exit strategies that involve institutionalizing successful models to ensure their continued expansion even after the project concludes. By embracing the LEED+ approach and inclusive business models, the project has fostered public-private partnerships to stimulate promising value chains, ultimately contributing to the long-term employment, productivity, and economic growth of rural communities. Through collaborations with the private sector, the project has identified potential value chains relevant to the region, paving the way for increased investments in the Northern Province.

Simrin Singh, Director of ILO Country Office for Sri Lanka and the Maldives stated ‘For over a decade, the LEED and LEED+ project has implemented strategies centered on improving livelihoods and job creation. The project has remained agile, innovative, and grounded on the realities of the region. Its success, in capacitating the Cooperatives, and creating links between producers in the North and the private sector, has delivered short term wins, but also presented long-term solutions. By creating an eco-system of necessary support services, knowledge inputs, and market linkages, decent work opportunities for women and men will continue to be generated. Essentially, the ILO’s role has been to plant the seed, facilitating and building opportunities that connect businesses to communities, so that everyone can share the gains of growth and ultimately no one is left behind.’

Based on the well tested solutions from over a decade of LEED and LEED+ implementation in the Northern Province, the ILO has made a clear human centered, economic and business case for development policies that prioritize addressing regional disparities, and adaptable approaches tailored to the distinct requirements of various sectors and regions.

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SL to have positive growth in third and fourth quarters of 2023– CBSL Governor

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The Annual Report of the National Savings Bank for 2022 was officially presented to President Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Minister of Finance, Economic Stabilization and National Policy, by the new chairman of NSB, President’s Counsel Dr Harsha Cabral and the General Manager/CEO Ajith Pieris on June 1, at the Presidential Secretariat.

By Hiran H.Senewiratne

The country will have positive growth in the third and fourth quarters of this year and as a result the projected negative growth this year will be closer to zero, Central Bank Governor Dr Nandalal Weerasinghe said.

‘We have decided to relax monetary policies and reduce policy interest rates, aiming to gradually ease inflationary pressures and aid in the recovery of the economy. We hope to bring inflation down to a single digit by the end of July, Dr Weerasinghe said at the CBSL’s monetary policy review meeting held at the Central Bank auditorium yesterday.

Dr. Weerasinghe added: ‘Faster than expected deceleration of inflation and the resulting benign inflation outlook, are some of the factors which contributed to the relaxing monetary policy stance.

‘Inflation is projected to decelerate notably in the period ahead, reaching single digit levels earlier than expected. Headline inflation is forecast to reach single digit levels in early Q3-2023 and stabilize around mid-single digit levels over the medium term.

‘Accordingly, the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, at its meeting held on May 31, 2023, decided to reduce the Standing Deposit Facility Rate (SDFR) and the Standing Lending Facility Rate (SLFR) of the Central Bank by 250 basis points to 13.00 percent and 14.00 percent, respectively.

‘The commencing of such monetary easing is expected to provide an impetus to the economy to rebound from the historic contraction of activity witnessed in 2022, while easing pressures in the financial markets.

‘The external sector, which underwent an unprecedented setback in 2022, begins to demonstrate an improved performance. The downward adjustment in market interest rates will accelerate in line with the envisaged single digit inflation, thereby supporting credit to the private sector and softening the pressures in the financial sector.

‘Faster deceleration of inflation and lower probability of excessive demand pressures during the economic rebound phase creates space for a gradual policy relaxation in the period ahead.

‘The continuation of the IMF-EFF supported program, further financial assistance from international development partners, such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, and renewed investor appetite, coupled with the advances in the debt restructuring process, are expected to ease the BOP constraint significantly in the period ahead, supporting the recovery in domestic economic activity.’

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Share market edges-up at mid-day in the wake of CBSL policy rate cuts

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE shares edged up in mid- day trade yesterday as the Central Bank’s decision on cutting policy rates by 250 basis points lowered the rate at which liquidity is injected to markets to 14.0 percent from 16.50 percent, market analysts said.

“The overall sentiment is positive, because it was a higher than expected rate cut, which would lower its cost of debt, which would positively impact the profitability of companies, an analyst said.

Sri Lanka’s inflation in the 12-months to May 2023 has eased to 25.2 percent from 35.3 percent a month earlier, according to a revised Colombo Consumer Price Index calculated by the state statistics office. The decline in inflation and improvement in foreign reserves, along with the stabilization of the rupee against the US dollar, created positive sentiment in the CSE, market sources explained.

Amid those developments both indices moved upwards. The All- Share Price Index went up by 136.4 points and S and P SL20 rose by 56 points. Turnover stood at Rs 1.34 billion with a single crossing. The crossing was reported in Melstacorp, which crossed 1.56 million shares to the tune of Rs 83.9 million; its shares traded at Rs 54.

In the retail market top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were, JKH Rs 542 million (3.9 million shares traded), Lanka IOC Rs 58.4 million (306,000 shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 47.5 million (345,000 shares traded), Access Engineer Rs 47.1 million (3.2 million shares traded), Hayleys Rs 38.1 million (558,000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 35.2 million (7.1 million shares traded) and Capital Alliance Rs 32.1 million (one million shares traded). During the day 46.7 million share volumes changed hands in 13000 transactions.

It is said that high net worth and institutional investor participation was noted in JKH. Mixed interest was observed in Lanka IOC, Melstacorp and Expolanka Holdings, while retail interest was noted in SMB Leasing, voting and non-voting, LOLC Finance and Browns Investments.

The Food, Beverage & Tobacco sector was the top contributor to the market turnover (due to Browns Investments and Melstacorp), while the sector index edged up by 0.06%. The share price of Browns Investments recorded a loss of 10 cents to Rs. 4.80. The share price of Melstacorp closed flat at Rs. 53.

The Capital Goods sector was the second highest contributor to the market turnover (due to JKH), while the sector index increased by 0.24%. The share price of John Keells Holdings increased by 25 cents to Rs. 136.

Lanka IOC and LOLC Finance were also included among the top turnover contributors. The share price of Lanka IOC gained Rs. 3.25 to Rs. 128.75. The share price of LOLC Finance closed flat at Rs. 4.70.Yesterday, the Central Bank’s US dollar buying rate was Rs 283.87 and the selling rate Rs 297.23. The inflation rate had come down to 33.60 percent.

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