Benchmark Treasury bill yields plunged across all tenures at yesterday’s (15) primary market auction to lows last seen during the first quarter of 2012, and although interest rates are easing, the Central Bank is keeping liquidity on a tight leash.
The Public Debt Department of the Central Bank offered maturing bills amounting to Rs. 15 billion which attracted bids amounting to Rs. 42.63 billion. The bank accepted bids amounting to Rs. 19.11 billion.
The one year Treasury bill yield plunged 45bps to 10.84 percent from 11.29 percent a week earlier while the three month yield fell by a sharp 43bps to 8.75 percent from 9.18 percent. The six month Treasury bill yield fell by 29bps to 9.91 percent to 10.20 percent.
The Central Bank earlier this month cut monetary policy interest rates by 50bps in a bid to spur economic growth.
Interbank money market interest rates have taken a plunge as well.
Overnight call market rates for interbank borrowings not backed by securities fell 52bps to 9 percent yesterday from 9.52 percent a week earlier while repo market rates for overnight gilt-backed interbank borrowings fell by 45bps to 8.30 percent from 8.75 percent a week ago.
The overnight Sri Lanka Interbank Offered Rate (SLIBOR) fell by 53bps to 9.03 percent from 9.56 percent a week earlier while the 12 month SLIBOR fell by 33bps to 13.10 percent from 13.43 percent.
Despite falling rates, the Central Bank is keeping liquidity on a tight leash with excess liquidity in banking system amounting to Rs. 4.9 billion yesterday after running short (in other words, negative) liquidity positions in the banking system over the past few weeks.
"The Central Bank has learned from past mistakes and although interest rates are easing, liquidity in the system is kept on a tight leash, just enough top support the day-to-day activities on banks and finance companies," an analyst said.
"Although rates are low, the short liquidity position in the system will discourage reckless lending and avoid inflationary pressures and balance of payments problems, unlike what happened in 2011/12."
The rupee gained sharply against the US dollar yesterday, closing at Rs. 126.00/05 against the greenback from an opening position of Rs. 126.47/50.
"We saw some selling of forward dollar contracts due to a drop in forward premiums on expectations for interest rates to narrow down further. The strengthening of the currency was not due to inflows," currency dealers said.