January 3, 2018 / 12:17 PM / 20 days ago

Sri Lankan shares rise on banks, diversified stocks

COLOMBO, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares rose for an eighth straight session to hit a six-week closing high on Wednesday, as investors picked up banks and diversified shares, with sentiment expected to remain positive after the central bank kept key policy rates unchanged last week.

The Colombo Stock Index ended 0.81 percent firmer at 6,463.50, its highest closing level since Nov. 22.

Shares in conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc gained 3.7 percent, while Lanka ORIX leasing Company Plc rose 4.8 percent.

“The positive trend which started last few days of 2017 is continuing, with investors continuing to buy value stocks,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research at First Capital Holdings.

“Declining market interest rates is a big positive factor.”

Turnover stood at 638.3 million rupees ($4.15 million), less than last year’s daily average of 915.3 million rupees.

Foreign investors net bought shares worth 190.95 million rupees on Wednesday. Foreign investors net bought 18.5 billion rupees worth equities in 2017, and 633.5 million rupees worth of stocks in 2016.

The index has risen 2.26 percent in 2017, posting the first annual increase in three years, after falling 9.7 percent in 2016.

Since March 2017, treasury bill rates have fallen between 188 and 216 basis points though end-December, mainly driven by foreign investors buying treasury bonds, resulting in declining market interest rates.

Analysts also said the 2018 economic growth trajectory would help boost market sentiment.

Sri Lanka’s economic growth in 2018 is forecast at 5-5.5 percent, bouncing back from an anticipated four-year low of less than 4 percent last year, central bank Governor Indrajit Coomaraswamy said on Wednesday. ($1 = 153.7000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)

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