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Shares extend losses; rupee weakens


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Reuters: Sri Lankan shares ended lower for a sixth straight session on Monday, posting their lowest close in more than six years, dragged down by diversified shares such as conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc. 

The market awaits cues from the third and final vote on the 2019 Budget scheduled for 5 April, market sources said. The Colombo Stock Exchange index ended down 0.19% to 5,529.67, its lowest close since Dec. 24, 2012. 

The benchmark stock index dropped 1.36% last week, recording its seventh straight weekly drop. The index has declined 8.64% so far this year. Turnover was Rs. 268.4 million ($1.51 million), well below last year’s daily average of Rs. 834 million. Foreign investors sold a net Rs. 53.8 million worth of shares on Monday, extending the year-to-date foreign outflow to Rs. 6.1 billion worth of equities so far this year. 

The Government aims to increase spending by 13% in 2019, during which the elections must be held, while it has set an ambitious goal to reduce a large fiscal deficit. The stability of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Government has been questioned by the Opposition since he was reinstated after a 51-day political crisis. 

The rupee ended slightly weaker at 178.10/20 to the dollar on greenback demand by some banks. It had closed at 178.00/10 on Friday. The rupee has climbed 2.53% this year as exporters converted dollars and foreign investors purchased government securities amid stabilising investor confidence after the country repaid a $1 billion sovereign bond in mid-January. 

Worries over heavy debt repayment after the 51-day political crisis resulted in a series of credit-rating downgrades, which dented investor sentiment as the country struggled to repay its foreign loans. Sri Lanka is struggling to repay its foreign loans, with a record $5.9 billion due this year, including $2.6 billion in the first three months. 

The rupee dropped 16% in 2018, and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia due to heavy foreign outflows. Foreign investors bought a net Rs. 3.5 billion worth of government securities in the week ended 19 March, the third net inflow in five weeks, turning year-to-date net foreign buying to Rs. 1.8 billion, the latest Central Bank data showed.


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