COLOMBO, May 23 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares closed slightly firmer on Thursday and extended gains into a fifth session, but trading volume slumped to a near five-month low amid worries over economic slowdown and lack of investor appetite for risky assets. ** Traders said the Easter day bombings and aftermath violence weighed on investor sentiment. Most investors have shied away from the market since the April 21 bombings that killed more than 250 people. ** Sri Lanka is unlikely to hit its full-year economic growth target of 3-4% following the Easter Sunday bombings, junior finance minister Eran Wickremeratne told Reuters on Tuesday. A Reuters poll has predicted the growth to slump to its lowest in nearly two decades this year. ** The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on May 14 approved the disbursal of a $164 million tranche of a loan programme, bringing the total disbursed to more than $1.16 billion. ** The benchmark stock index ended 0.19% firmer on Thursday at 5,305.80. It fell 1.28% last week. ** Turnover was 83.5 million rupees ($473,490), the lowest since Jan. 4 and well below this year’s daily average of around 552.6 million rupees. Last year’s daily average was 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors sold a net 8.4 million rupees worth of shares on Thursday, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 5.8 billion rupees worth of equities. ** The rupee ended 0.2% firmer at 176.30/45 per dollar, compared with Wednesday’s close of 176.65/80, on exporter dollar sales, market sources said. ** Analysts, however, expect the currency to weaken as money flows out of stocks and government securities. ** The rupee gained 0.1% last week and is up 3.4% for the year. Exporters had converted dollars as investor confidence stabilised after a $1 billion sovereign bond was repaid in mid-January. ** The rupee dropped 16% in 2018 and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia. ** Foreign investors sold a net 433.2 million rupees worth of government securities in the week ended May 15, extending net foreign outflow to 21.2 billion rupees so far this year, central bank data showed. ** Investor sentiment was damaged at the end of last year when President Maithripala Sirisena abruptly removed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and then dissolved parliament. A court later ruled the move unconstitutional, but the political turmoil led to credit rating downgrades and an outflow of foreign funds. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 176.3500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)
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