July 3, 2018 / 1:09 PM / 16 days ago

Sri Lankan shares hit 15-month closing low on foreign selling

COLOMBO, July 3 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares extended falls on Tuesday to a 15-month closing low as continued foreign selling in blue chips, political uncertainty and concerns about lower economic growth dented investor appetite for risky assets.

The Colombo stock index declined for a 16th session in 18 and closed 0.77 percent weaker at 6,081.08, its lowest close since April 3, 2017. On Monday, the index fell the most in intraday trade in nearly 28 months.

Foreign investors sold the island nation’s risky assets for a ninth consecutive session, extending the foreign outflow to 1.02 billion rupees ($6.44 million).

“Foreign selling was the main reason for the fall. Political uncertainty is the main reason that has kept investors on the sidelines,” said Prashan Fernando, CEO, Acuity Stockbrokers.

Foreign investors net sold equities worth 182.8 million rupees, extending the year-to-date foreign outflows to 1.82 billion rupees.

Turnover was 566.5 million rupees, less than this year’s daily average of 932 million rupees.

Top conglomerate John Keells Holdings closed 3.4 percent lower, Lanka Orix Leasing Company fell 4.2 percent, and leading mobile phone services provider Dialog Axiata slipped 1.4 percent.

Investors are waiting for some positive news both on the economic and political fronts, said analysts, adding that the government’s policy implementation had been sluggish since both main parties in the ruling coalition suffered local polls in February.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera said last month that the economy was likely to grow about 4.5 percent this year, below a central bank estimate of 5 percent.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on June 20 that Sri Lanka’s economy remained vulnerable to adverse shocks because of sizable public debt and large refinancing needs.

Ratings agency Moody’s said on Wednesday a strengthening U.S. dollar since mid-April has increased the credit risk of several emerging markets, including Sri Lanka, due to currency depreciation.

Moody’s said a strong U.S. dollar would also lead to a drop in foreign exchange reserves of countries such as Argentina, Ghana, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Zambia. ($1 = 158.3000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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