September 18, 2018 / 11:50 AM / a month ago

Sri Lanka shares end at 30-month low on foreign selling, weak rupee

COLOMBO, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares breached the 6,000-point psychological barrier and hit a 30-month closing low on Tuesday, weighed down by a weak rupee and heavy foreign selling in market heavyweight John Keells Holdings.

The Colombo stock index ended 0.95 percent weaker at 5,971.21, its lowest close since March 15, 2016. It lost 1.4 percent last week, its first weekly drop in four.

Earlier in the session, the Sri Lankan rupee fell 0.5 percent and hit an all-time low of 166.00 per dollar, dented by higher dollar demand from importers amid reluctant greenback sales by exporters, market sources said.

The sliding rupee and political uncertainty weighed on sentiment, said Preshan Fernando, CEO, Acuity Stockbrokers.

“Foreign selling in Keells dragged the market,” he said.

Conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc ended 2 percent down at 131.90 rupees after hitting a 30-month low earlier in the trade.

Foreigners sold a net 2.1 million shares in Keells, data from the bourse showed.

Turnover was 881.2 million rupees ($5.32 million) on Tuesday, more than this year’s daily average of 797.5 million rupees.

Foreign investors sold a net 200.7 million rupees worth of shares extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 4.8 billion rupees worth of equities.

Analysts said the fuel price hike also hurt investor confidence as it could hit corporate earnings. Fuel retailers raised gasoline and diesel prices for a third time in four months this month due to higher global oil prices and a weaker rupee.

Investors are awaiting cues from the national budget in November.

Shares of Distilleries Co of Sri Lanka Plc ended 4 percent lower, Sampath Bank Plc closed 3.7 percent weaker and Nestle Lanka Plc ended down 2.8 percent.

Leading mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata Plc ended 2.4 percent lower and the biggest listed lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc closed 2.5 percent weaker.

$1 = 165.7000 Sri Lankan rupees Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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