Sri Lankan shares fall after five days of gains

COLOMBO, April 23 Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:42am EDT

COLOMBO, April 23 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares fell on Wednesday after five days of gains as investors booked profits in large caps despite moderate foreign inflows into the island nation's risky assets.

The main stock index fell 0.31 percent, or 19.06 points, to 6,172.77, slipping from its highest close since Feb. 3 hit in the previous session. The day's loss erased around 8 billion rupees worth market capitalisation of the bourse.

The bourse gained 1.61 percent in the five sessions through Tuesday as lower interest rates helped to attract some retail investors, stockbrokers said.

The benchmark 91-day treasury bill yield dropped 3 basis points to 6.58 percent, the lowest since January 2007 when the central bank made available data.

The central bank on Tuesday kept policy rates steady at multi-year lows, as expected, and expressed confidence that private sector credit growth would rebound in the second quarter and push up the pace of economic expansion.

The day's turnover was 670.8 million rupees ($5.14 million), less than this year's daily average of 963.6 million rupees.

The bourse saw net foreign inflows for a 10th straight session. Offshore investors bought 109.6 million rupees worth of stocks, though they have sold a net 7.59 billion rupees of shares so far this year.

Shares in Ceylon Tobacco Company PLC fell 1.16 percent to 1,105.20 rupees, while Bukit Darah PLC lost 5.34 percent at 541 rupees.

Shares in top conglomerate and market heavyweight John Keells Holdings PLC fell 0.38 percent to 239 rupees.

Stockbrokers expect the nation's $19.79 billion bourse to gain in the short term due to prevailing lower interest rates.

Analysts, however, said foreign investors could shift from the island nation's risky assets if Sri Lanka does not cooperate in an international probe by the Office of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights into the country's alleged war crimes and human rights abuses.

Sri Lanka's foreign minister had said earlier this month that the country would not cooperate with the inquiry.

($1 = 130.6000 Sri Lanka Rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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