* Rupee steady amid heavy importer demandCOLOMBO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s stock market fell for a sixth straight session on Tuesday to a 10-month low in thin turnover due to forced selling to clear margin debt and liquidity fears.The island nation’s main share index closed 1.07 percent or 68.99 points down at 6,388.52, lowest since Dec. 21, 2010. It has fallen 5.8 percent since Oct. 1. The bourse is Asia’s fifth-best performer with a year-to-date loss of 3.7 percent after being on the top for most of 2011.The recent fall has pushed the index deep into oversold territory. The relative strength index on Tuesday fell to 18.86 from Monday’s 21.63, well below its lower neutral range of 30.The bourse witnessed a net foreign outflow of 35.5 million rupees on Tuesday and thus far in 2011, offshore investors have sold 17 billion, and sold a record 26.4 billion in 2010.Bourse data showed foreign investors sold over 80,000 shares of conglomerate John Keells Holdings and 30,800 of Bukit Darah while buying nearly 300,000 of Dialog Axiata .Keells fell 0.6 percent to 198.50 rupees, Bukit Darah fell 0.14 percent to 1068.50 rupees while Dialog fell 1.23 percent to 8 rupees.Losers outperformed gainers by 185 to 34 on Tuesday, Thomson Reuters data showed.Turnover was at 1.3 billion Sri Lanka rupees ($11.8 million), less than last year’s average of 2.4 billion and this year’s 2.6 billion.Tuesday’s total volume was 73.2 million against a five-day average of 59.3 million. The 30-day and 90-day average trading volumes were 134.5 million and 124.3 million. Last year’s daily average was 67.9 million.The rupee closed flat at 110.18/20 a dollar for a 13th straight day, as a state bank continued dollar sales at 110.20 rupees in spite of heavy importer dollar demand, dealers said.FACTORS TO WATCH: - If central bank can maintain a narrow dollar trading range - How much the central bank buys in repo auctions - Rupee depreciation due to heavy importer dollar demandDATAColombo Stock Exchange:Stock Market Volume (Shares)Current Volume Average Volume 30 Days73,233,298 134,527,399Yield and Price of Sri Lanka’s sovereign bonds:Maturing year Tenure amount Reuters yield2012 5-yr $500 mln 5.663-5.1582014 5-yr $500 mln 5.856-5.3612020 10-yr $1,000 mln 6.5104-6.36062021 10-yr $1,000 mln 6.4964-6.3559* For Sri Lankan treasury securities benchmarks and data, please click and* For interbank lending rate or call money rate or* For secondary market rates, please see <0#LKBMK=>. ($1 = 110.200 Sri Lanka Rupees)
In a progress report published by the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) partnership at the start of an international Malaria Forum conference in Seattle, the United Nations health body said “remarkable progress” had been made.Up to a third of the 108 countries and territories across the world where malaria is endemic are moving toward being able to wipe out the disease within their borders, it said.”Better diagnostic testing and surveillance has provided a clearer picture of where we are on the ground — and has shown that there are countries eliminating malaria in all endemic regions of the world,” Robert Newman, director of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program, told the conference.He said the WHO continually monitors progress to ensure countries are supported in their efforts to be malaria-free.Almost half the world’s population — or 3.3 billion people — are at risk of malaria and the mosquito-borne parasitic disease killed 781,000 people in 2009, latest data show.Most of its victims are in Africa, where the disease kills a child every 45 seconds.Malaria elimination — halting the disease’s transmission and reducing infections to zero within a defined area — was first attempted on a large scale during the Global Malaria Eradication Program from 1955 to 1972.During that time, 20 countries were certified by WHO as malaria-free. But that number dropped to just four countries during the following 30 years when efforts to control the spread of the disease lapsed and it swiftly returned.Monday’s report said seven countries had recently eliminated malaria and were working to prevent re-introduction, another 10 countries were monitoring transmission to get down to zero malaria cases, and a further nine were “preparing to move toward nationwide elimination of malaria.”“The extraordinary commitment, the … financing, and the coordination of efforts to realize malaria targets over the last ten years have resulted in a situation today where we could see 10 more countries reaching a malaria-free status in a relatively short time,” said Awa Marie Coll-Seck, RBM’s executive director.”This will save many many more lives.”PROGRESS MADERBM said in a report in September that a rapid scale up of a range of malaria control measures — such as insecticide treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying, faster and more accurate diagnosis and access to anti-malaria drugs — has saved an estimated 1.1 million lives in Africa in the past 10 years.International funding for the fight against malaria has also risen substantially in recent years, reaching about $1.5 billion in 2010, up from $100,000 million in 2003.Newman said that with all the highly effective tools currently available, “no one should die of malaria” and urged international donors and national governments to push harder to ensure all those who needed them had access to them.Only then, he said, would the “global goal of eradicating this ancient scourge” become a reality.The Malaria Forum is organized and funded by the Gates Foundation, a $34 billion fund founded by the billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The foundation is devoted largely to health projects in poor countries.In 2007, Gates and his wife Melinda called on the international community to fight for global eradication of malaria, saying that to aspire to anything less would be “timid.”
* Cites high unemployment, tightening credit and high private-sector debt* Brings S&P rating in line with Fitch* Euro down about a third of a cent against dollarMADRID, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Standard and Poor’s cut Spain’s credit rating on Friday, sending the euro lower and underlining the challenges facing Europe’s big powers as they prepare to meet G20 counterparts over the euro-zone debt crisis.S&P, whose move mirrored that by fellow ratings agency Fitch last week, cited high unemployment, tightening credit and high private-sector debt among reasons for cutting the nation’s long-term rating to AA- from AA.At above 21 percent, Spanish unemployment is the highest in the European Union, reflecting a stagnant economy, the collapse of a decade-long housing boom and cuts aimed at reeling in a public sector deficit which reached 11.1 percent of GDP in 2009.High yields on Spanish government bonds point to concerns that it could be the next euro zone economy to need bailing out after Greece, Ireland and Portugal, although an unpopular austerity programme has gone some way to convincing investors that its deficit will fall to 6 percent of GDP this year as promised.S&P announced the downgrade as finance ministers and central bank chiefs from the world’s 20 biggest economies were due to meet later on Friday in Paris amid pressure to find an urgent and convincing solution to the deepening debt crisis.”Despite signs of resilience in economic performance during 2011, we see heightened risks to Spain’s growth prospects due to high unemployment, tighter financial conditions, the still high level of private sector debt, and the likely economic slowdown in Spain’s main trading partners,” S&P said.It also noted the “incomplete state” of labour market reform and the likelihood of further asset deterioration for Spain’s banks, and downgraded its forecast for Spanish economic growth in 2012 to about 1 percent.In February, S&P had forecast 1.5 percent growth for 2012.Juergen Michels, economist at Citi in London, said the market was still wary of developments in Spain’s regional public finances, and was aware that fiscal problems would not disappear any time soon.”The central government has made some progress but we are still to see any improvement in regional finances … (and) the adjustment in the housing market is not finished by any means.”The spread on Spanish 10-year government bond yields versus their German counterpart were little changed in early trade in Europe compared to Thursday.JOB DILEMMAA botched labour market reform in 2010 did little to alleviate joblessness that is concentrated mainly amongst younger Spaniards, and a new government after November 20 general elections will be under pressure to tackle the issue.The conservative People’s Party is expected to win the election easily and deepen austerity measures but they have shied away from presenting specific policy measures for fear of eroding public support.Like Fitch, which also now rates Spain at AA-, S&P signalled further possible downgrades for Spain, saying there was still a risk the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy could slip into recession next year, with a 0.5 percent contraction.”We could lower the ratings again if, consistent with our downside scenario, the economy contracts in 2012, Spain’s fiscal position significantly deviates from the government’s budgetary targets, or additional labor market and other growth-enhancing reforms are delayed,” S&P said.The euro dipped in Asian trade after the downgrade, though it still remained on track for its biggest weekly rally since January. It last traded at $1.3753 , having shed around a third of cent.Finance chiefs from outside the euro zone are expected to speak frankly when they meet their European counterparts at Friday’s G20 meeting, given impatience growing over the crisis and its implications for the rest of the world.Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty set the tone late on Thursday, telling reporters before leaving Ottawa that euro zone actions were short of what was needed.On Thursday, Fitch cut credit ratings or signalled possible downgrades for several major European banks. It downgraded UBS <UBSN.VX, Lloyd’s Banking and Royal Bank of Scotland . It also placed Barclays Bank , BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale on watch negative.