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* Sri Lankan shares at 2-week low on profit taking; rupee ends weaker
Thu, Nov 7, 2019, 09:01 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Nov 07 (Reuters) COLOMBO- Sri Lankan shares ended weaker on Thursday, falling for a fourth straight session to their two-week low, as investors booked profits ahead of the presidential vote on Nov. 16.

The country's main Tamil party on Thursday announced their support for Sajith Premadasa, the housing minister and one of the two presidential front-runners, giving him an edge over his rival Gotabaya Rajapaksa

There are growing concerns over giveaways promised by the two top presidential candidates after officials and a credit rating agency warned that their pledges could push the country deeper into debt.

The International Monetary Fund approved the release of sixth tranche of a $1.5 billion loan programme for Sri Lanka, but asked the authorities to show fiscal discipline.

Sajith Premadasa has promised free housing for all, free school uniforms and meals for students, and free fertilizer for farmers among other things.

Gotabaya Rajapaksa has vowed to cut a 15% value added tax by nearly a half and abolish some taxes as a way to reignite consumption.

The benchmark stock index ended 0.41% weaker at 5,932.07. Last week, the index rose 1.6% in its fourth straight weekly gain, but is down 1.99% this year.

Political analysts say the leading candidates are locked in a tough fight, although Sajith Premadasa has been gaining at grass-root level due to his poverty elimination policies and support from minorities.

Diversified and banking stocks were among the top losers, with Hemas Holdings Plc falling 3.6%, Vallibel One Plc 4.6%, Hatton National Bank Plc 1.1%, conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc 0.39%, Sampath Bank Plc 1.6%.

The rupee ended 0.11% weaker at 180.70/181.00 per dollar, compared with Wednesday's close of 180.50/80. The currency is up 1.1% so far this year.

Foreign investors were net sellers of riskier assets for 11 out of 12 sessions on Thursday.

They sold a net 13.3 million Sri Lankan rupees ($73,602.66) worth of shares on Thursday, extending the net foreign outflow so far this year to 5.78 billion rupees worth of equities, according to index data.

Equity market turnover was 599.7 million rupees, less than this year's daily average of about 680.5 million rupees. Last year's daily average was 834 million rupees.

Meanwhile, foreign investors bought government securities on a net basis for a second time in four weeks, buying a net 1.55 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended Oct. 30.

Total foreign outflows from government securities through Oct. 30 stood at 52.08 billion rupees, central bank data said.

The central bank left its key rates unchanged on Oct. 11 after loosening policy this year, although growth is likely to remain subdued as the economy faces rising global risks.

Read More:: Reuters (Source)