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Sri Lankan shares hit 5-week closing low on fuel price hike, foreign outflows


MAY 14, 2018 

COLOMBO, May 14 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan shares ended at a near five-week low on Monday, led by industrial shares such as John Keells Holdings, while foreign outflows and the recent fuel price hike weighed on sentiment, stockbrokers said.

State-run fuel retailer Ceylon Petroleum Corp (CPC) raised retail prices for gasoline and diesel on Thursday midnight in response to the hike in oil prices, while Lanka IOC, a subsidiary of Indian Oil Corp, increased fuel rates the same day.

“The fuel price hike hit overall market sentiment. The increase could hit cost of production and services in almost all the companies. So investors expect lower profits,” said Jaliya Wijeratne, CEO, First Capital Equities.

The Colombo stock index fell for a sixth straight session and ended 0.52 percent weaker at 6,444.96, its lowest close since April 10. The index lost 0.4 percent last week, in its third straight weekly decline.

The day’s foreign selling accounted for 80 percent of the turnover, which stood at 924.4 million rupees ($5.86 million), less than this year’s daily average of 1.03 billion rupees.

Foreign investors net sold 333.2 million rupees worth of equities on Monday, extending net foreign outflow to 668.5 million rupees worth of equities so far this year.

John Keells Holdings, whose transport business is seen to be affected due to the price hike, ended 1.2 percent down, while top mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata, closed 1.4 percent lower despite posting a rise of 78.6 percent in first-quarter net profit, and Lanka IOC ended down 4.5 percent.

Garment exporter Teejay Lanka Plc accounted for 65 percent of the day’s turnover.

The market shrugged off the central bank’s policy decision on Friday as it was widely expected, brokers said.

The central bank kept its key policy rates steady, a little more than a month after it unexpectedly cut the main lending rate, forecasting a modest recovery in the economy this year after growth slumped to a 16-year low in 2017.

Analysts said the depreciation of rupee also weighed on investor sentiment as it is likely to hit profits of some listed firms that rely heavily on imports.

The rupee hit a fresh low of 158.00 per U.S. dollar on Monday on importer demand for the U.S. currency.

Analysts said concerns over political instability following President Maithripala Sirisena’s decision to suspend the parliament last month after 16 legislators from his ruling coalition defected also weighed on sentiment.

Sirisena last week urged his own coalition government and the opposition to end a power struggle in order to achieve ambitious goals including anti-corruption measures.

($1 = 157.8000 Sri Lankan rupees)