Sri Lankan shares fall for 2nd session, led by John Keells

COLOMBO, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares ended weaker for a second straight session on Tuesday, led by top conglomerate John Keells Holdings, though foreign investors’ buying and gains in financials helped to cap the fall.

Trading volume was low as cautious investors awaited direction from the budget and September-quarter corporate results.

The benchmark index of the Colombo Stock Exchange finished 0.37 percent weaker at 6,538.28, its lowest close since Sept. 30.

“There was a bit of interest in the banking sector. But the overall market is still struggling with not many people ready to invest as tight liquidity has driven up market interest rates,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research, First Capital Equities (Pvt) Ltd.

“Outlook is mixed with expectations of better earnings for the last quarter and rising fixed-income returns ahead of the budget. Not many people are in for medium- to long-term investments at the moment. The market will move sideways until the budget.”

Turnover was 603.7 million rupees ($4.12 million), less than this year’s daily average of around 750 million rupees.

Stockbrokers said the market might see lower trading volumes as many investors await direction from the budget, scheduled on Nov. 10, and the government’s long-term economic policy announcement.

A number of companies are expected to report their September-quarter results later this month, stockbrokers said.

Foreign investors, who have sold a net 2.73 billion rupees worth of shares so far this year, bought a net 246.3 million rupees worth of shares on Tuesday.

Shares of John Keells Holdings fell 1.3 percent.

Banking shares gained with top lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon rising 0.47 percent and Hatton National Bank climbing 0.87 percent.

$1 = 146.3700 Sri Lankan rupees Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu