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Sri Lankan stocks end higher on retail buying


FEBRUARY 16, 2018 

COLOMBO, Feb 15 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan shares recovered on Thursday, following two straight sessions of losses, on retail buying after the central bank held key policy rates steady amid signs political uncertainty was easing, dealers said.

The central bank’s decision was widely expected, with policymakers emphasizing the need to support an economy that has been beset by production disruptions due to massive intermittent floods and prolonged drought last year.

The Colombo stock index ended 0.32 percent firmer at 6,553.21, hovering near its highest close since Nov. 8 hit on Friday.

The index gained 0.8 percent last week, its third straight weekly rise.

Shares in Melstacorp Ltd rose 2.8 percent, while Ceylinco Insurance Plc ended 6.7 percent higher and Aviva NDB Insurance Plc gained 25 percent.

“Today, there was retail and high net-worth interest on insurance sector and it was mainly retail driven,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research at First Capital Holdings.

“Foreign investors were worried with the continued political uncertainty and delaying to see some settlement will create more uncertainty in the market,” he said, referring to a decision that could end the political instability.

Analysts, however, said they see some positive signs as both the ruling coalition parties are in talks to end the political impasse, with President Maithripala Sirisena expected to make a statement possibly on Friday.

The ruling coalition government of Sirisena’s center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s center-right United National Party suffered defeats in a local election over the weekend.

Since the results, both parties have locked horns on how best to continue in the government.

Investors are waiting for some stability and to see where coalition partners are headed, analysts said.

Turnover stood at 878.1 million rupees ($5.67 million), well below last year’s daily average of 915.3 million rupees.

Foreign investors sold a net 2.3 million rupees worth of shares on Thursday, but have been net buyers of 5.4 billion rupees worth of equities so far this year. ($1 = 154.8500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)