COLOMBO, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares rose on Thursday to close at their highest in more than 13 weeks as investors took positions two weeks ahead of presidential polls, analysts said.
** Sajith Premadasa, the housing minister and one of the two presidential front-runners, announced his election manifesto, which is seen by analysts as a “broader policy framework”. His close rival Gotabaya Rajapaksa has pledged a tax overhaul that would reduce tax to 8% from the current 15% and abolish many taxes. ** Many political analysts Reuters spoke to said the tight race between the two presidential candidate was still on.
** The benchmark stock index ended 0.55% firmer at 5,990.24, its highest close since July 29. The index rose 1.2% last week, but is down 1% for the year.
** Financial and telecom stocks were among the top gainers, with Hatton National Bank Plc rising 2.9%, Sri Lanka Telecom Plc ending 2.2% firmer and Dialog Axiata Plc adding 0.8%.
** The rupee ended 0.25% firmer at 181.05/30 per dollar, compared with Wednesday’s close of 181.50/60. The currency is up 0.86% so far this year.
** Foreign investors were net sellers of riskier assets for the seventh straight session on Thursday.
** They sold net 102 million rupees ($563,380) worth of shares, extending the year-to-date net foreign selling to 4.32 billion rupees of equities, according to index data.
** Equity market turnover was 1.28 million rupees ($7,069.87), well above this year’s daily average of about 667.6 million rupees. Last year’s daily average was 834.0 million rupees.
** Meanwhile, foreign investors bought government securities on a net basis for the first time in three weeks, buying a net 1.97 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended Oct. 23.
** Total foreign outflows from government securities through Oct. 23 stood at 53.63 billion rupees, according to central bank data.
** Sri Lanka’s central bank left its key rates unchanged on Oct. 11 after loosening policy earlier this year, although growth is likely to remain subdued as the economy faces rising global risks.
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** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 181.0500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)