Sri Lanka shares up on Keells, local buying on low interest rates

Wed Jan 29, 2014 7:20am EST

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COLOMBO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares rose on
Wednesday, led by conglomerate John Keells Holdings,
and as local institutions bought stocks after interest rates
dropped though foreign investors sold risky assets ahead of a
U.S. Federal Reserve decision on trimming stimulus.
    The main stock index gained 0.54 percent, or 33.31
points, to 6,252.14, near its highest close since June 12 hit on
Friday.
    Interest rates in treasury bills eased at a weekly auction
on Wednesday to multi-year lows, making fixed-income assets
unattractive for investors. 
    "Now we see some local institutions buying shares when
foreigners are selling. We didn't see that up to now. Gradually
local (investor) confidence is building up," said a stockbroker
on condition of anonymity.
    Shares in John Keells Holdings rose 2.03 percent. The
company said after market close that its December-quarter net
profit rose 17 percent year-on-year to 3.39 billion rupees.
 
    Sri Lanka's only specialised Islamic bank, Amana,
which started trading for the first time on Wednesday, ended at
5.90 rupees, 15.7 percent lower than its IPO price of 7 rupees.
    Foreign investors were net sellers of 18.77 million rupees
($143,500) worth of shares, but have been net buyers of 1.04
billion rupees so far this year. They had bought 22.88 billion
rupees of stocks last year.
    The index has gained 5.2 percent in the last 15 sessions,
including last week's 2 percent gain, which analysts attributed
to the central bank's rate cut on Jan. 2 and the recent fall in
T-bill yields.  
    The index has been in an overbought region since Jan. 7,
Thomson Reuters data shows. It has risen 5.7 percent so far this
year, following a 4.8 percent gain in 2013, after having fallen
in the previous two years.
    The day's turnover was 808 million rupees, less than last
year's daily average of about 828.4 million rupees.
($1 = 130.8250 Sri Lanka rupees)

 (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by
Anupama Dwivedi)
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