February 19, 2018 / 11:56 AM / 7 months ago

Sri Lankan stocks steady in dull trade; political woes weigh

COLOMBO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares ended steady on Monday in thin trade amid political uncertainty after both parties in the ruling coalition suffered defeats in a local election earlier this month.

Turnover stood at 288.4 million rupees ($1.9 million), well below the daily average of 849.7 million rupees.

The Colombo stock index ended 0.03 percent firmer at 6,565.63, its highest close since Feb. 9.

Shares in Melstacorp Ltd rose 7 percent, while Trade Finance Plc gained 16.8 percent.

The index fell 0.13 percent last week, after gaining for three straight weeks.

“Very slow day as investors are waiting for political direction after the election debacle,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research at First Capital Holdings.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s centre-right United National Party (UNP) and President Maithripala Sirisena’s centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) were routed by a party backed by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in local polls on Feb. 10, plunging the government into crisis.

Since the results, both parties have locked horns on how best to continue in the government. Sirisena’s party wants to form its own government, his party ministers have said, while Wickremesinghe’s party has said it is in the process of forming its own government.

Wickremesinghe, addressing the media on Friday said that the government will continue with a reshuffle of the cabinet.

Foreign investors bought a net 20.7 million rupees worth of shares on Monday, extending the net foreign buying to 5.5 billion rupees worth of equities so far this year. ($1 = 155.3000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)

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