October 29, 2018 / 2:25 PM / 15 days ago

Sri Lankan rupee hits record low amid political crisis; stocks at 6-week high

COLOMBO, Oct 29 (Reuters) - ** The Sri Lankan rupee slumped to a record low on Monday as growing political turmoil sparked buying of U.S. dollars by importers. Stocks hit a nearly six-week closing high on retail investor buying, but foreign investors exited after President Maithripala Sirisena sacked the prime minister unexpectedly and swore in the ex-president.

** The rupee dropped to a record low of 174.30 per dollar on Monday, surpassing the earlier record of 173.08 hit on Friday. ** The rupee ended at 173.75/90 per dollar on Monday, compared with its previous close of 173.05/20. ** The rupee weakened 2.8 percent so far this month after a 4.7 percent drop in September against the dollar. It dropped 13.2 percent so far this year.

** Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed prime minister on Friday after President Maithripala Sirisena dismissed the incumbent in a surprise move that threatens political turmoil in the South Asian country. As president, the pro-China Rajapaksa ushered in billions of dollars of investment from Beijing to help rebuild the country following the end of a 26-year-long civil war against Tamil separatists in 2009. ** The Colombo stock index ended up 1.9 percent at 5,944.18, its highest close since Sept. 19. It shed 3.6 percent last month and has lost 6.7 percent so far this year.

** Analysts said retail investors, who have stayed away from the market during a number of investigations against market manipulation that allegedly occurred under the previous government, actively bargain-hunted after the president’s announcement. ** For a report on global markets, click here and for a report on major currencies, click ** Data from the central bank showed foreign investors sold government securities worth a net 3.3 billion rupees ($30.7 million) in the week ended Oct. 17. Sri Lanka has seen a net outflow of 85.9 billion rupees in securities so far this year. ** Stock market turnover was 4.2 billion rupees ($24.18 million) on Monday, more than five times this year’s daily average of 785.4 million rupees. ** Foreign investors were net sellers of shares worth 3.1 billion rupees on Monday, worst outflow since March 28 and extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 12.5 billion rupees worth of equities.

** Shares in Distillers Company of Sri Lanka Plc ended 5.9 percent higher. Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc closed up 3.4 percent, Hemas Holdings Plc closed 7.1 percent higher and conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc ended 1.3 percent higher. ($1 = 173.7000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez: editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Larry King)

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