Sri Lankan shares steady; led by large-cap consumer stocks

COLOMBO, July 21 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan shares ended little changed on Thursday as gains helped by foreign buying and led by financials were offset by some large-cap consumer staples, while the market awaited directions on the macro economy.

The benchmark Colombo stock index ended up 0.05 percent, or 2.97 points, at 6,417.46 in thin trade.

"Things were a bit slow. But investors were looking at more blue chip counters rather than retail stocks," said Dimantha Mathew, head of research, First Capital Equities (Pvt) Ltd.

Analysts said investors are waiting for a direction on the country’s economic policies, which is expected to be announced by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe next month.

The index touched a three-week high on Friday as investor sentiment got a boost after Sri Lanka raised $1.5 billion in its first sale of dual-tranche eurobonds last week.

The more-than $5.5 billion in offers for the issue showed that global investors were bullish about the prospects of the $82-billion economy.

Yields on local T-bills fell at an auction on Wednesday for the second time since April 15, following the strong response to the bond deal.

Turnover stood at 585.7 million rupees ($4.02 million), well below this year’s daily average of around 735.9 million rupees.

Overseas investors, who were net sellers of shares worth 4.86 billion rupees so far this year, were net buyers worth 41.8 million rupees of equities on Thursday.

Among the index heavyweights, shares in beverage maker Distillers Company of Sri Lanka Plc rose 2.65 percent, while Cargills (Ceylon) Plc gained 4.16 percent and Hatton National Bank Plc climbed 1.88 percent.

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Among the losers, Nestle Lanka Plc slipped 2.9 percent while Ceylon Tobacco Company Plc lost 1.41 percent.

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