(EconomyNext) – Sri Lankan stocks ended higher Thursday on healthy turnover with the market closing early because of presidential polls where incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa faces a stiff challenge from the candidate of a newly unified opposition coalition.
The All Share Price Index rose 59.08 points (0.79 percent) to close at 7,497.60 while the S&P SL20 index, which tracks the top 20 largest and most liquid stocks on the Colombo Stock Exchange, climbed 36.86 points (0.89 percent) to reach 4,185.97.
Turnover was 1.5 billion rupees popped up by a crossing or negotiated off-market deal in index heavyweight John Keells Holdings and heavy trading in Access Engineering Ltd. (AEL), a company which has benefited from the country’s infrastructure boom.
"The market maintained its momentum since the beginning of the week," stock brokers Bartleet Religare Securities said. "Interest was evident across the board."
The Colombo bourse closed at 12 noon owing to the presidential election with voting largely peaceful despite fears of violence.
Rajapaksa is challenged by his own former health minister and ruling party secretary general Maithripala Sirisena who quit with several others to become the joint candidate of a broad coalition of opposition parties.
Bartleet Religare Securities said JKH topped the turnover list for the day aided by a negotiated deal on the stock, contributing about 13 percent of the day’s turnover.
JKH closed up 50 cents (0.2 percent) at 243.70 rupees.
"There was also specific interest on AEL," Bartleet Religare Securities said.
AEL, which closed at 35 rupees, up 30 cents (0.9 percent), was the most actively traded stock.
Polls monitors reported a fairly high turnout in the poll in most parts of the island.
There was an explosion in the northern Jaffna peninsula but police said no one was hurt.
Polls monitors had expressed fears violence would be used in the north and east, home to minority Tamils and Muslims, who are expected to vote for the opposition.
"Foreigners, however, were on the selling side with a net foreign outflow of 258.93 million rupees," the stock broker said.