(Adds bourse, rupee close)
By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal
COLOMBO, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares .CSE hit a fresh record high on Monday led by local investor-buying of blue chips in the first trading day of the year, after being one of the world’s best performing bourse in 2009.
The All-Share Price Index .CSE of the Colombo Stock Exchange climbed to 3,490.56 points by midday, surpassing its previous peak of 3,390.31 hit on Dec. 30. It closed 96.09 points or 2.84 percent firmer at a record closing high of 3,481.64.
“Investors are expecting a boom in the market this year,” said Harsha Fernando, CEO at SC Securities in Colombo.
The bourse was closed on Friday for a special new year holiday and Monday is the first trading day in 2010.
Sri Lanka’s stock exchange was one of the world’s best performing markets in 2009, jumping 125.2 percent on optimism that the end of the country’s long civil war in May would bring in a flood of badly needed foreign investment.
It has outpaced the benchmark emerging market equities index .MSCIEF, which rose 74.8 percent in 2009.
Low interest rates and slowing inflation have also fuelled foreign investor interest.
Sri Lanka’s economy is likely to expand by around 7 percent in 2010, with a substantial recovery in private sector credit growth and investor confidence after the end of its long civil war, the central bank said on Monday. [ID:nSGE60309H]
Market heavyweight and top conglomerate John Keells Holdings JKH.CM jumped 4.37 percent to a near 3-year high of 179 rupees, while shares in Carson Cumberbatch CARS.CM rose 13.8 percent to a life high of 558.25 rupees.
The day’s turnover was 1.15 billion rupees ($10 million), nearly twice of the 2009 daily average of 593.6 million rupees.
Analysts said retail investors have been driving up the market after they saw foreigners buying shares when the market slows down ahead of the presidential poll in January.
Analysts said investors were betting that regardless of the outcome of the Jan. 26 presidential polls, the stock market will continue its climb, fuelled by post-war economic optimism
Traders said investors are also buying heavily due to low interest rates in the market. Analysts said the market will still rise till mid-January and slow down later due to the presidential election.
Sri Lanka’s presidential poll is scheduled for Jan. 26 and will be followed by parliamentary election due by April and analysts said the broader market was still waiting for direction from the economic policies of the main presidential candidates Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka.
For Sri Lanka’s political risks, see [ID:nSGE5BE023]
The Sri Lankan rupee LKR= closed weaker at 114.45/50 per dollar, compared with Friday's close of 114.40/50 due to importer demand for dollars by state banks, currency dealers said.
The interbank lending rate or call money rate CLIBOR edged up to 9.066 percent from Friday’s 9.005 percent.
For secondary market rates, please see <0#LKBMK=>. ($1=114.475 Sri Lankan rupees) (Editing by Harish Nambiar)