Sri Lanka stocks end at near 6-week high; rupee falls

Reuters – Sri Lankan shares rose for the fifth straight session on Thursday to end at a near six-week high on local buying, even as foreign investors continued exiting the island nation’s risky assets, while the rupee edged lower on importers’ dollar demand. ** The benchmark stock index ended 0.16% firmer at 5,387.36, its highest close since May 3. It fell 0.24% last week and 10.99% this year so far. ** 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. ** Sri Lanka is unlikely to hit its full-year economic growth target of 3-4% following the bombings, junior finance minister Eran Wickremeratne told Reuters last month. A Reuters poll has forecast growth to slump to its lowest in nearly two decades this year. ** The government’s pension fund has resumed investing in risky assets as the stock market is “extremely undervalued at the moment and is considered a good time to go in”, the central bank governor said last month at its monetary policy meet. ** Thursday’s stock market turnover was 235.5 million rupees ($1.33 million), less than this year’s daily average of about 524.5 million rupees. Last year’s daily average was 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors sold a net 109.8 million rupees worth of shares on Thursday, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 5.85 billion rupees. ** The rupee ended at 176.60/70 per dollar, compared with Wednesday’s close of 176.45/60, market sources said. ** Analysts expect the rupee to weaken further as money flows out of stocks and government securities. ** The rupee fell 0.03% last week but is up 3.39% for the year. Exporters had converted dollars as investors’ confidence stabilised after a $1 billion sovereign bond was repaid in mid-January. ** The rupee dropped 16% in 2018 and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia. ** Foreign investors sold a net 3.5 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended June 4, extending the island nation’s net foreign outflow to 21.9 billion rupees so far this year, central bank data showed.

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