Sri Lankan shares ended firmer on Wednesday at near one-week highs, as investors picked up beverage and diversified shares ahead of Saturday’s
Though wartime defence chief Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who is backed by majority Sinhala Buddhists, had early lead in the poll, the momentum had now tilted towards his rival Sajith Premadasa, who is backed by all communities in Sri Lanka, political analysts say. There is no official opinion polls in Sri Lanka.
The country’s main Tamil party last week announced its support for Premadasa, giving him an edge over Rajapaksa.
There are growing concerns over giveaways promised by the two top presidential candidates after officials and a credit rating agency warned that their pledges could push the country deeper into debt.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the release of sixth tranche of a US$1.5 billion loan programme for Sri Lanka, but asked the authorities to show fiscal discipline.
Premadasa has promised free housing for all, free school uniforms and meals for students, and free fertiliser for farmers among other things.
Rajapaksa has vowed to cut in half a value-added tax of 15 percent and abolish some taxes as a way to reignite consumption.
The benchmark stock index ended 0.58 percent firmer at 5,989.42. The bourse fell 1.3 percent last week, ending a four-week run of gains. The index is down 1.04 percent for the year. Markets were closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Political analysts say the leading candidates are locked in a tough fight, although Premadasa has been gaining at grass-root level due to his poverty elimination policies and support from minorities.
The rupee ended 0.17 percent firmer at 180.20/40 per dollar, compared with Friday’s close of 180.50/65. The currency is up 1.3 percent so far this year. Markets were closed for holidays on Monday and Tuesday.
Foreign investors were net sellers of riskier assets in 12 out of 13 sessions on Wednesday.
They sold a net Rs.11.4 million (US$63,157.89) worth of shares on Friday, extending the net foreign outflow from the equities market to Rs.5.79 billion for the year, according to index data.
Equity market turnover was Rs.722.6 million, more than this year’s daily average of about Rs.680.7 million. Last year’s daily average was Rs.834 million.
Meanwhile, foreign investors bought government securities on a net basis for the third time in five weeks, buying a net Rs.1.88 billion worth of government securities in the week ended November 6.
Total foreign outflows from government securities through November 6 stood at Rs.50.2 billion, the Central Bank data said.
The Central Bank left its key rates unchanged on October 11 after loosening its monetary policy this year. However, growth is likely to remain subdued in the face of rising global risks.