Sri Lanka stocks hit near 3-month high as foreign inflows surge; rupee slips

COLOMBO, July 15 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares gained for the fifth straight session on Monday to hit a nearly three-month closing high, as foreign fund inflows hit a more than seven-year high due to a block deal, while the rupee ended marginally lower. ** Foreign inflows hit their highest in more than seven years, after Singapore-registered LOLC Pvt Ltd bought shares of LOLC Finance Plc, accounting for 90% of the day’s turnover. Shares in LOLC Finance Plc, however, ended 2.63% down.

** In a disclosure to the bourse, LOLC Holdings Plc said its subsidiary registered in Singapore LOLC Pvt Ltd bought 62.26% of LOLC Fiance Plc shares held by LOLC Holdings Plc, amounting to 8.89 billion rupees to facilitate internal restructuring of the holding of LOLC Finance Plc. ** Foreign investors bought a net 8.71 billion rupees ($49.60 million) worth of shares on Monday, reversing the year-to-date net foreign trade to net inflow of 1.43 billion rupees, index data showed.

** The benchmark stock index gained 0.31% to 5,587.36, its highest close since April 18. ** The index rose 1% last week, its third consecutive weekly gain. So far this year, the index is down about 8%.

** The central bank left key interest rates unchanged on Thursday as expected, after cutting them in May to support the economy as tourism and investment plummeted in the wake of deadly suicide bombings in April. ** Shares in Dialog Axiata Plc jumped 3.06% on Monday, Hemas Holdings Plc ended 4.57% firmer and LOLC Holdings Plc closed up 1.27%.

** Stock market turnover was 9.35 billion rupees ($53.25 million), its highest since March 28, 2018 and well above this year’s daily average of about 609.6 million rupees. Last year’s daily average came in at 834 million rupees. ** Meanwhile, the currency closed a tad weaker at 175.65/75 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close of 175.45/55, as importer demand for the greenback surpassed dollar selling by banks. The rupee rose 0.37% last week, and is up 3.96% so far this year. ** The rupee dropped 16% in 2018 and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia. ** The island nation raised $2 billion via 5-year and 10-year sovereign bond sales last month, tapping global capital markets for the second time in three months. ** Foreign investors bought a net 2.68 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended July 10, but the market has seen a year-to-date net foreign outflow to 19.73 billion rupees, the central bank data showed. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 175.6000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Rashmi Aich)