March 21, 2019 / 12:21 PM / a month ago

Sri Lanka shares fall for 4th session; rupee ends firmer

COLOMBO, March 21 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka’s share index fell for a fourth straight session on Thursday to a more than 6-year closing low as investors exited the island nation’s risky assets, while they awaited cues from the third and final vote on the 2019 budget, market sources said. ** The Colombo Stock Exchange index fell 0.36 percent to 5,571.30, hovering near its lowest close since Dec. 26, 2012. ** The benchmark stock index fell 1.85 percent last week, recording its sixth straight weekly drop. It has declined 7.95 percent so far this year. ** Turnover was 844.3 million rupees ($4.74 million), more than last year’s daily average of 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors bought a net 1.7 million rupees worth of shares on Thursday but they have been net sellers of 6.15 billion rupees worth of equities so far this year. ** Parliament last week passed the second reading of the 2019 budget that raises spending while setting an ambitious goal to reduce a large fiscal deficit. The final vote is scheduled for April 5. ** The stability of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has been questioned by the opposition since he was reinstated after a 51-day political crisis. ** The rupee ended firmer at 177.90/178.10 to the dollar on greenback selling by some banks, compared with Tuesday’s close of 178.40/50. Markets were closed on Wednesday for a public holiday. ** The rupee has climbed 2.64 percent this year as exporters converted dollars and foreign investors purchased government securities amid stabilising investor confidence after the country repaid a $1 billion sovereign bond in mid-January. ** Worries over heavy debt repayment after the 51-day political crisis that resulted in a series of credit-rating downgrades dented investor sentiment as the country struggled to repay its foreign loans. ** The rupee dropped 16 percent in 2018, and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia due to heavy foreign outflows. ** Foreign investors bought a net 1.16 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week that ended on March 13, the second net inflow in four weeks, but they have sold a net 1.7 billion rupees this year, the latest central bank data showed. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 177.9500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Shreejay Sinha)

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