April 18, 2018 / 11:42 AM / a month ago

Sri Lankan stocks extend gains, hit 5-week closing high

COLOMBO, April 18 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan share index ended at its highest close in more than five weeks on Wednesday, gaining for a sixth straight session, but many market participants stayed away due to extended holidays after the Sinhala-Tamil New Year festival last weekend.

The Colombo stock index ended 0.12 percent higher at 6,551.83, its highest close since March 13. The index gained 0.44 percent last week.

Turnover stood at 188.3 million rupees ($1.21 million), well below this year’s daily average of 1.13 billion rupees.

“The turnover level was very low with most investors still on holiday. The index, however, is up on blue-chip buying in low volumes,” said Atchuthan Srirangan, assistant manager - research, First Capital Holdings PLC.

Shares of Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc ended 2.8 percent higher, while the biggest listed lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc closed up 1.1 percent, conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc closed 0.4 percent higher.

The market was waiting for some political stability after President Maithripala Sirisena suspended parliament until May 8, brokers said.

Foreign investors bought shares worth a net 24.3 million rupees on Wednesday, but they have net sold 1.33 billion rupees worth of equities so far this year.

The central bank unexpectedly cut its key lending rate by 25 basis points early this month, as policy makers sought to revitalise an economy growing at its weakest pace in 16 years and facing heightened political uncertainty.

$1 = 156.2500 Sri Lankan rupees Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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