Sri Lanka shares steady; rupee edges down on fiscal deficit concerns

(Reuters) – Sri Lankan shares closed nearly unchanged on Tuesday, hovering near a 17-month high hit in the previous session, while the rupee ended weaker on concerns related to government coffers following recent tax cuts. ** The benchmark stock index closed largely unchanged at 6,214.99. The bourse gained 1.5% last week, and is up 2.69% for the year. ** The Sri Lankan rupee fell 0.14% to 181.50/65 per dollar, compared to Friday’s close of 181.25/35, Refinitiv data showed. It is up 0.6% so far this year. ** The government reduced value-added tax to 8% from 15% from Dec. 1, and abolished some other taxes as well in its attempt to boost economic growth that has fallen to a near two-decade low. ** Emerging Asia Economics said in a note on Monday that the tax cut decision would provide a significant boost to the economy, but put increased strain on the country’s fragile public finances with a possible loss of $2 billion in revenue. ** Foreign investors were net buyers in the equity market for the second time in six sessions on Tuesday, after being net sellers for 24 sessions out of 26. ** They bought a net 81.6 million Sri Lankan rupees ($453,333) worth of shares on Tuesday, but the market has suffered a net foreign outflow of 10.6 billion Sri Lankan rupees worth of equities so far this year, according to index data. ** Equity market turnover was 946.6 million Sri Lankan rupees, more than this year’s daily average of about 726 million Sri Lankan rupees. Last year’s daily average was 834 million Sri Lankan rupees. ** Meanwhile, foreign investors were net buyers of government securities on a net basis for the sixth straight week, purchasing a net 4.3 billion Sri Lankan rupees worth of government securities in the week ended Nov. 27. ** Total foreign outflows from government securities through Nov. 27 stood at 43.7 billion Sri Lankan rupees, according to central bank data.

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