COLOMBO, July 19 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares rose for the eight consecutive session on Friday to end at a more than a four-month high, as banking stocks continued to lead gains, while the rupee edged down on high dollar demand from importers.
** The benchmark stock index gained 0.34% to 5,715.14, its highest close since March 8. It rose 2.6% for the week, recording its fourth consecutive weekly gain. But the index is down about 5.57% so far this year. ** On Friday, the stock market’s turnover was 712.1 million rupees ($4.05 million), more than this year’s daily average of about 611.5 million rupees so far. Last year’s daily average came in at 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors bought a net 191.7 million rupees worth of shares on Friday, extending the year-to-date net foreign inflow to 1.48 billion rupees worth of equities so far this year, index data showed. ** Shares in country’s biggest listed lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon rose 2.8%, Commercial Leasing and Finance Plc jumped 12% while Melstacorp Ltd and Browns Investment Plc ended 0.22% and 4.35% higher, respectively. ** Meanwhile, the currency ended tad weaker at 175.75/85 per dollar, compared with Thursday’s close of 175.70/80, as importer demand for the greenback outpaced the dollar selling by banks. The rupee fell 0.17% during the week, but is up 3.89% so far this year. ** The rupee dropped 16% in 2018 and was one of the worst-performing currencies in Asia. ** The central bank left key interest rates unchanged last week as expected, after cutting them in May to support the economy as tourism and investment plummeted in the wake of deadly suicide bombings in April. ** The island nation raised $2 billion via 5-year and 10-year sovereign bond sales last month, tapping global capital markets for the second time in three months. ** Foreign investors bought a net 2.68 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended July 10, but the market has seen a year-to-date net foreign outflow to 19.73 billion rupees, the central bank data showed. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 175.7500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Rashmi Aich)