July 8, 2019 / 11:53 AM / 2 months ago

Sri Lanka shares slip from 11-week closing high; rupee edges higher

COLOMBO, July 8 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares inched lower on Monday, retreating after six straight sessions of gains to a near 11-week closing high, as investors sold diversified stocks such as John Keells Holdings Plc. ** The bourse hit its highest close since April 18 on Friday, buoyed by the government’s decision to launch a $2.2 billion Japan-funded Light Railway Transit (LRT) project and some other stalled infrastructure projects, brokers said. ** The benchmark stock index ended 0.2% down at 5,504.60. ** The index rose 2.67% last week, notching its second consecutive weekly gain. However, the bourse is down 8.87% so far this year. ** Shares in conglomerate John Keells Holdings fell 1.8%, while Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc ended 1.5% weaker and Commercial bank of Ceylon Plc, the country’s biggest listed lender, lost 1.8%. ** Stock market turnover was 136.3 million rupees ($773,992), well below this year’s daily average of about 542.2 million rupees. Last year’s daily average came in at 834 million rupees. ** Foreigners bought on a net basis for the second time in 13 sessions, purchasing a net 15.1 million rupees worth of shares, but the bourse has seen net foreign outflows of 6.91 billion rupees so far this year, the index data showed. ** The government’s launch of central highway and light railway projects helped lift hopes that the country’s transformation would result in a faster economic growth rate, stockbrokers said. ** Sri Lanka is unlikely to hit its full-year economic growth target of 3-4% following Easter Sunday bombings and a Reuters poll has forecast growth to slump to its lowest in nearly two decades this year. ** Meanwhile, the currency closed slightly firmer at 176.05/15 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close of 176.10/15, as exporter dollar sales surpassed importer greenback demand. The rupee rose 0.17% last week, and is up 3.72% so far this year. ** The rupee dropped 16% in 2018 and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia. ** The island nation raised $2 billion via 5-year and 10-year sovereign bond sales last month, tapping global capital markets for the second time in three months. ** Foreign investors sold a net 3.93 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended July 3, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 22.4 billion rupees, the central bank data showed. ** The central bank cut its key interest rates on May 31 to support a faltering economy as overall business and consumer confidence slumped following deadly bomb attacks in April. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 176.1000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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