December 6, 2017 / 11:47 AM / a year ago

Sri Lankan shares hit near 3-month closing low

COLOMBO, Dec 6 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares extended falls into a third session on Wednesday and closed at their lowest in nearly three months, dragged down by healthcare and diversified conglomerates.

The Colombo Stock Index ended down 0.15 percent at 6,380.91, its lowest close since Sept. 13. It fell 0.03 percent last week, recording its fourth straight weekly drop, but has gained about 2.5 percent so far this year.

Shares in Asiri Hospitals Plc fell 3.9 percent, while conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc ended 0.3 percent weaker.

“The market slipped a bit with foreign selling,” said Hussain Gani, deputy CEO at Softlogic Stockbrokers.

“Local (investor) participation was very much silent and we will expect this trend to continue with the year-end holidays.”

Foreign buying accounted for 70 percent of the day’s turnover, which was 1.2 billion rupees ($7.83 million), compared with this year’s daily average of 944.4 million rupees.

Foreign investors, who have been net buyers of 18.6 billion rupees worth of shares so far this year, were net sellers of equities worth 152.3 million rupees.

Worries over a delay in local council polls and a lack of clarity over the budget and two other key policy measures weighed on sentiment, said analysts.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission said on Monday that the council polls would be held before Feb. 17.

Investors are concerned about political stability as coalition partners in President Maithripala Sirisena government had decided to contest separately in the council polls.

Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera imposed new taxes on motor vehicles, telecoms, banks and liquor in the 2018 budget presented last month, with a final budget vote scheduled for Dec. 9.

Analysts said market participants were seeking more clarity on those taxes and that there could be some amendments before the final vote.

The government also released gazette notifications on the Inland Revenue Act and the Exchange Control Act, with investors waiting for clarification on the new legislation. ($1 = 153.2500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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