December 29, 2017 / 11:24 AM / 6 months ago

Sri Lankan shares rise; up 2.3 pct in 2017

COLOMBO, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Sri Lankan shares rose for a sixth straight session in muted trade on Friday, ending 2017 with a modest 2.3 percent gain after two consecutive annual losses.

The Colombo Stock Index edged up 0.08 percent to 6,369.26, its highest since Dec. 8 and posting the first annual increase in three years after falling 9.7 percent in 2016.

Asiri Hospitals Plc rose 24.4 percent, while Carson Cumberbatch Plc ended 0.6 percent higher and conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc gained 0.3 percent.

Turnover stood at 379.98 million rupees ($2.48 million), less than this year’s daily average of 915.3 million rupees and last year’s 737.2 million rupees.

Foreign investors net bought shares worth 143.4 million rupees on Friday, extending the 2017 net foreign inflow to 18.5 billion rupees. They net bought 633.5 million rupees worth equities in 2016.

“We expect the market to start the next year in a positive note as the central bank held the rates and gave a clear direction on where the interest rates are going to be,” said Hussain Gani, deputy CEO at Softlogic Stockbrokers.

“The first two months, the election fever will be there. Investors will look for policy direction after the elections and what policies to boost growth.”

Sri Lanka will hold a long-delayed local government election on Feb. 10.

The country’s central bank, which kept benchmark interest rates unchanged on Thursday, expects growth to come in below 4 percent this year, lower than its original 2017 growth forecast of 5.0 percent.

The $81 billion economy grew at an annual pace of 3.7 percent in the first nine months of 2017, which followed its most severe drought in 40 years in the first quarter and the worst flooding in 14 years in May. ($1 = 153.4000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)

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