Sri Lankan shares hit four-month closing low in thin trade

COLOMBO, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan shares on Thursday ended at their lowest closing level in more than four months, on thin volume as investor sentiment was hit by budget tax proposals, including revisions in corporate and withholding taxes.

The government aims to boost its 2017 tax revenue by 27 percent to 1.82 trillion rupees ($12.36 billion) year-on-year, and meet a commitment given to the International Monetary Fund in return for a $1.5 billion loan in May.

The benchmark index of the Colombo Stock Exchange ended down 0.07 percent at 6,344.28, its lowest close since July 7.

The index fell for a fourth straight session and was in the oversold territory, with the 14-day relative strength index at 25.714 versus Wednesday’s 26.347, Thomson Reuters data showed. A level between 30 and 70 indicates the market is neutral.

"Investors are very cautious after the budget and the U.S. elections," said Reshan Kurukulasuriya, chief operating officer, Richard Pieris Securities (Pvt) Ltd.

"Investors are expecting some positive news to move."

Analysts said these budget proposals are still unclear, and there are concerns that some of them could be reversed, like what occurred last year.

Foreign investors bought 12.1 million rupees worth of shares on Thursday. But they have sold a net 1.08 billion rupee of shares so far this year.

Analysts said the increase in various taxes and fees would reduce the disposable income of people and challenge the consumption-led growth.

Turnover was 248.5 million rupees ($1.68 million), well below a half of this year’s daily average of 704.3 million rupees.

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Shares of conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc dropped 1.02 percent, while Ceylinco Insurance Plc fell 2.99 percent and Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc dipped 0.57 percent.

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