COLOMBO, July 17 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares rose for the sixth straight session on Wednesday to hit a more than three-month closing high, as diversified and banking stocks gained, while the rupee ended steady. ** The benchmark stock index gained 1.04% to 5,645.65, its highest close since April 4. Markets were closed on Tuesday for a holiday. ** The index rose 1% last week, its third consecutive weekly gain. So far this year, however, the index is down about 6.72%. ** On Wednesday, the stock market’s turnover was 737.2 million rupees ($4.20 million), more than this year’s daily average of about 610.6 million rupees. Last year’s daily average came in at 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors sold a net 123.8 million rupees worth of shares on Wednesday, but they have been net buyers of 1.31 billion rupees worth of equities so far this year, index data showed.
** Shares in Dialog Axiata Plc jumped 5.94%, conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc ended 1.72% firmer and the country’s biggest listed lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon closed up 3.08%. ** Meanwhile, the currency closed steady at 175.65/75 per dollar, compared with Monday’s close, as importer demand for the greenback offset the 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 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. ** 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 = 175.5000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Rashmi Aich)