September 26, 2018 / 12:00 PM / 3 months ago

Sri Lankan shares recover from near 5-yr closing low on bargain- hunting

COLOMBO, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares recovered from their lowest close in nearly five years hit in the previous session and ended about 1 percent higher on Wednesday as investors picked up battered stocks.

The benchmark index hit a near five-year low on Tuesday on foreign selling amid a weaker rupee and government plans to curb imports hurt investor sentiment.

The Colombo stock index rose 0.92 percent to 5,887.52, pulling away from its lowest close since Dec. 18, 2013 hit on Tuesday.

“Market bounced back with buying in heavyweights like John Keells which came down over the last few days,” said Hussain Gani, deputy CEO, Softlogic Stockbrokers.

“We have seen some investors picking up value shares. But most of the investors are still waiting to see if the rupee is stabilising and the economic impact of rupee’s fall.”

Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe said on Monday the government would take measures to impose taxes to curb imports by $500 million to $1 billion to face the currency crisis.

Sri Lanka’s finance minister urged its people to buy local products and shun unnecessary imports in order to reduce the trade deficit and help stabilise a rupee currency that revisited its all-time low on Wednesday.

The rupee has weakened 4.6 percent so far this month after a 1.2 percent drop last month, and has declined 10 percent so far this year.

Analysts said the acceleration in the rupee’s depreciation was creating panic among investors.

Turnover was 318.5 million rupees ($1.89 million), less than half of this year’s daily average of 790.8 million rupees.

Foreign investors sold a net 49.6 million rupees worth of shares on Wednesday, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 5.7 billion rupees worth of equities.

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

Investors are awaiting cues from the national budget in November.

Shares of conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc rose 3.8 percent while Sri Lanka Telecom Plc jumped 6.5 percent and Commercial Leasing and Finance Company Plc closed 8.0 percent firmer. ($1 = 168.8000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Vyas Mohan)

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