* Lower rates weigh on exchange rate; rupee near record low
    * Cenbank raised commercial banks' SRR by 150 bps from Jan.
16
    * Policy decision due Monday, Jan. 25, at 1400 GMT

    COLOMBO, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka's central bank is
expected to keep its key interest rates steady at record lows on
Monday, a Reuters poll found, after it raised commercial banks'
statutory reserve ratio (SRR) by 150 basis points from Jan. 16
in a bid to relieve pressure on the fragile rupee. 
    The rupee closed at 144.00/144.20 per dollar on
Friday, near its record low of 144.30, on importer dollar
demand. 
    Six out of 11 economists surveyed expected the Central Bank
of Sri Lanka to keep the standing deposit facility rate (SDFR)
and the standing lending facility rate (SLFR) steady at 6.00
percent and 7.50 percent, respectively.
    Three analysts expected a 25 bps rise in both rates. One
analyst expected both rates to be raised by 100 bps each, while
another expected them to be hiked by 50 bps.
    All 11 economists expected the SRR to remain unchanged.
    "If the central bank wants to ease the pressure on the
rupee, it must raise the policy rates," said Danushka
Samarasinghe, research head at Softlogic Stockbrokers.
    The rupee, which fell 9 percent last year, has been under
pressure due to lower interest rates, higher imports, and
foreign outflows from government securities. 
    The central bank allowed free float of the currency, but
defended it in the face of volatility due to thin trade, dealers
say.
    Economists said the government had little fiscal options to
help keep the currency stable as it had promised a lot of
spending in the 2016 budget. 
    The central bank in April 2015 surprised markets with a
50-bps rate cut to spur economic growth and boost consumer
prices. Until then, it had held rates steady for 14 months. 
    Since then the island nation has witnessed a 26.3 percent
growth in private sector credit in October 2015 from a year
earlier, compared with 13.9 percent growth in March last year. 
    Sri Lanka's economy grew 4.8 percent in the third quarter of
last year compared with the same period a year earlier, slowing
from 6 percent in the second quarter. 
    Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake in his 2016 budget speech
in November estimated the economy would expand 6 percent this
year and aimed to achieve annual growth of 7-8 percent during
the next few years. 
    Following are poll forecasts for rates on Monday: 
         
                    SDFR         SLFR        SRR
                  (in pct)    (in pct)     (in pct)    
Median              6.00         7.50       7.50
Average             6.20         7.70       7.50  
Minimum             6.00         7.50       7.50
Maximum             7.00         8.50       7.50   
Rates in December   6.00         7.50       6.00
No. of economists    11           11         11

 (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by
Subhranshu Sahu)

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