COLOMBO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - ** Sri Lankan shares closed slightly higher on Friday, buoyed by telecom and diversified stocks. The rupee ended firmer. ** The benchmark stock index closed 0.06% higher at 5,863.48. The index gained 0.49% for the week, but has fallen 3.12% so far this year. ** Meanwhile, the rupee ended 0.03% firmer at 181.95/182.10 per dollar compared with Thursday’s close of 182.00/10. The currency is up 0.36% so far this year.
** Foreign investors bought riskier assets for the first time in 13 sessions as campaigning got underway for the country’s presidential election.
** They bought a net 145.4 million rupees worth of shares on Friday, but they have been net sellers of 3.99 billion rupees of equities so far this year, according to index data.
** One of the two presidential frontrunners, former wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has won the backing of President Maithripala Sirisena’s centre-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), in the election scheduled for Nov. 16.
** Rajapaksa and the other strong candidate Sajith Premadasa, the housing minister who has strong backing among the rural poor, started their campaigns last week.
** Equity market turnover was 1.05 billion Sri Lankan rupees ($5.77 million), well above this year’s daily average of about 662.3 million rupees. Last year’s daily average was 834.0 million rupees. ** Foreign investors sold government securities on a net basis for the seventh time in eight weeks, selling a net 102.8 million rupees worth of government securities in the week ended Oct. 9. ** Total foreign outflows from government securities through Oct. 9 stood at 54.9 billion rupees, as per central bank data.
** Sri Lanka’s central bank left its key rates unchanged last week after loosening policy earlier this year, although growth is likely to remain subdued as the economy faces rising global risks.
** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 181.9000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; editing by Uttaresh.V)