Sri Lankan shares fall to near six-week low on foreign selling

COLOMBO Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:52am EST

COLOMBO Feb 18 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares fell for a fourth straight session on Tuesday to a six-week low as foreign investors dumped the island nation's risky assets on a day of thin trading.

The main stock index ended lower 0.57 percent, or 34.45 points, at 6,021.66, its lowest close since Jan. 7. It has lost 3.62 percent in the last 10 straight session.

Foreign investors sold a net 229.52 million rupees ($1.75 million) worth of shares on Tuesday, extending outflows to 4.87 billion rupees in the past eight sessions as some offshore funds exited the market.

The bourse has seen 3.48 billion rupees of foreign outflows so far in 2014, after enjoying net inflows of 22.88 billion rupees last year.

Analysts said investors were waiting for direction on foreign selling and concerned over further outflows, though local investors are still optimistic about risky assets due to falling interest rates.

On Monday, Sri Lanka's central bank kept its policy rates steady at multi-year lows, with inflation expected to be contained throughout 2014 by "well-managed demand conditions and improved domestic supply".

Analysts said local investors were active in the market after interest rates on treasury bills eased to multi-year lows, making fixed-income assets unattractive.

Shares of Ceylon Tobacco Co Plc fell 2.44 percent to 1,209.70 rupees, while Distillers Sri Lanka Plc fell 3.3 percent to 208 rupees, pulling the overall index down.

Top conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc lost 0.68 percent to close at 218.40 rupees.

The index has risen 1.84 percent so far this year, following a 4.8 percent gain in 2013.

The day's turnover was 604.1 million rupees, just half of this year's daily average of about 1.2 billion rupees. ($1 = 130.8250 Sri Lanka rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee)