COLOMBO, Oct 25 (Reuters) - ** Banking and beverage stocks pushed Sri Lankan shares to a near 11-week peak on Friday after one of the presidential front-runners released his policy manifesto, while the rupee closed tad weaker.
** Earlier in the day, former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa unveiled his policy statement, pledging a tax overhaul that would reduce value added tax to 8% from the current 15%, abolish a tax for professionals on their salary and simplify many other taxes.
** Rajapaksa faces a stiff challenge from Housing Minister Sajith Premadasa, who will announce his policy framework on Nov. 1. Analysts had said investors were waiting to see their views on tax, subsidies and private businesses.
** The benchmark stock index firmed 0.32% to 5,935.26, its highest close since Aug. 13, 2019, and extended a winning streak to a seventh straight session. The index posted a weekly gain of 1.2%, but is down 1.93% so far this year.
** The rupee ended 0.08% weaker at 181.25/45 per dollar, compared with Thursday’s close of 181.10/25. The currency is up 0.74% so far this year.
** Foreign investors were net sellers of riskier assets for the third time in six sessions.
** They sold a net 26 million Sri Lankan rupees ($143,448.28) worth of shares, extending the year to date net foreign selling to 3.96 billion rupees of equities, according to index data.
** Equity market turnover was 638.7 million rupees, less than this year’s daily average of about 665.6 million rupees. Last year’s daily average was 834.0 million rupees.
** Meanwhile, foreign investors sold government securities on a net basis for the eighth time in nine weeks, selling a net 724.9 million rupees worth of government securities in the week ended Oct. 16.
** Total foreign outflows from government securities through Oct. 16 stood at 55.6 billion rupees, as per central bank data.
** Sri Lanka’s central bank left its key rates unchanged on Oct. 11 after loosening policy earlier this year, although growth is likely to remain subdued as the economy faces rising global risks.
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** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 181.2500 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Aditya Soni)