COLOMBO Aug 19 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan stocks edged up on Tuesday to near three-year highs, but the exit of a U.S. fund which sold shares of John Keells Holdings resulted in heavy outflows, though the sentiment was still positive due to lower interest rates.
U.S.-based fund Janus' selling in Keells resulted in net foreign outflows of 4.52 billion rupees ($34.7 million) on Tuesday, the worst since March 25, 2010.
Foreign investors have been net buyers of 7.49 billion rupees worth of shares so far this year.
"Janus exited after five years, and some local and foreigners bought the shares," said a stockbroker with knowledge of the deal, asking not to be named.
Another stockbroker said Janus had been looking for an exit for some time and was looking for a better price in Keells.
The main stock index closed up 0.1 percent, or 6.75 points, at 6,981.46, its highest finish since Sept. 9, 2011.
The index has gained 18 percent so far this year.
Turnover was 8.19 billion rupees, its highest since March 16 2012.
Conglomerate John Keells, which accounted for 88.77 percent of the day's turnover, rose 1.83 percent to 244.40 rupees a share. Foreign investors sold a net 18.9 million Keells shares, bourse data showed.
United Motors Lanka Plc, which led the gains in the overall index, rose 48.8 percent to 148.80 rupees. (1 US dollar = 130.1000 Sri Lankan rupee) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Prateek Chatterjee)