COLOMBO, Nov 1 (Reuters) - ** The Sri Lankan rupee traded at a record low on Thursday, but closed firmer due to central bank dollar sales. Stocks hit a nearly two-month closing high, but foreign investors continue to exit even after newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s attempts to resolve the political crisis.
** The rupee traded at a record low of 175.65 per dollar, hit in the previous session. ** The rupee ended at 174.00/40 per dollar on Thursday, compared with previous close of 175.60/176.00. The rupee has dropped 0.5 percent since the political crisis unfolded. ** The rupee weakened 3.7 percent in October after a 4.7 percent drop in September against the dollar. It dropped 13.4 percent so far this year.
** Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister last week after President Sirisena dismissed the incumbent in a surprise move that threatens political turmoil in the South Asian country.
** The appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister prompted protests and a demand for parliament to be called, to allow lawmakers to choose their leader. The return of Rajapaksa, a former president who crushed a decades-old Tamil insurgency, has stoked fears of fresh political and ethnic division in the island nation of 21 million mostly Sinhalese Buddhists, with Tamil and Muslim minorities. ** The Colombo stock index jumped 2.7 percent to 6,114.13, slipping from its highest close since Sept. 7. The bourse rose 4.9 percent since Friday, but fell 1.5 percent last month and slipped 4.01 percent so far this year.
** Analysts said retail investors, who have stayed away from the market during a number of investigations against market manipulation that allegedly occurred under the previous government, actively bargain-hunted after the president’s announcement. ** For a report on global markets, click here and for a report on major currencies, click ** Data from the central bank showed that foreign investors sold government securities worth a net 3.9 billion rupees ($22.40 million) in the week ended Oct. 23. Sri Lanka has seen a net outflow of 89.8 billion rupees in securities so far this year. ** Stock market turnover was 1.5 billion rupees ($8.62 million) on Thursday, twice this year’s daily average of 792.7 million rupees. ** Foreign investors were net sellers of shares worth 572 million rupees on Thursday, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 13.4 billion rupees worth of equities.
** Shares in conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc ended 3.1 percent higher, while Distilleries Co of Sri Lanka Plc closed 5.0 percent firmer.
$1 = 174.1000 Sri Lankan rupees Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips