By Ranga Sirilal
Sri Lankan shares closed at a record on Tuesday as investors bought blue chip shares continuing its upward trend ahead of January polls.
The All-Share Price Index of the Colombo Stock Exchange rose 1.99 percent to an all-time high of 3,298.83 in intra-day trade, before closing up 1.44 percent or 46.54 points at 3,280.82, its highest ever close.
The index has more than doubled this year.
Market heavyweight John Keells Holdings closed 6.01 percent firmer at 172 rupees a share, while shares in top fixed line telephone operator Sri Lanka Telecom closed 2.27 percent firmer at 45 rupees a share.
"Market moving up with investor confidence is back ahead of elections and expected good earnings," said Harsha Fernando, CEO at SC Securities in Colombo. The day's turnover was at 1.45 billion rupees ($12.66 million), mostly driven by local buying, well above last year's daily market average of 464 million rupees.
The island nation's economy grew 4.2 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier, helped by increased activity after the end of a 25-year war and up from a 2.1 percent expansion in the second quarter.
Analysts said the investors were taking positions expecting good earnings, and also ahead of elections.
On Thursday, Sri Lanka's election commissioner accepted a record 22 nominations for the January presidential poll, in which economic policies, and not war strategy, are expected to dominate the campaign.
The presidential poll is scheduled for Jan. 26 and it will be followed by parliamentary election due by April.
Analysts and traders said the broader market is still waiting for directions from the economic policies of the main presidential candidates Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka.
The Sri Lankan market remains one of 2009's best performers worldwide with a 118.28 percent year-to-date return.
The Sri Lankan rupee closed firmer at 114.33/38 per dollar, compared with Monday's close of 114.40/45 as exporters sold dollars and on inward remittances ahead of festival season, currency dealers said.
The interbank lending rate or call money rate <CLIBOR> edged up to 9.006 percent from Monday's 8.948 percent.
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