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Sri Lanka stocks rise in thin trade; rupee little changed

Dec 26 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan stocks firmed up in thin trading on Friday, led by a block deal in Dialog Axiata Plc shares, even as many investors stayed off in Christmas season and political uncertainty before the Jan. 8 presidential polls dented market sentiment.

The main stock index was up 0.13 percent or 9.21 points at 7,272.46 at 0533 GMT.

The index’s turnover got a boost on a block deal in leading mobile phone operator Dialog Axiata Plc, dealers said.

The turnover was at 92.8 million rupees ($0.70 million) on Friday.

Shares in Dialog Axiata were trading steady at 13.50 rupees at 0541 GMT.

“Market is up on block deal of Dialog; if you take out that the turnover is very low as many investors and stockbrokers are still on Christmas holiday,” said Reshan Wediwardene, research analyst at First Capital Equities (pvt) Ltd.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s United People’s Freedom Alliance lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time in more than four years after two ruling party legislators, including a cabinet minister, defected to join the opposition camp on Monday.

Fifteen legislators, including two Buddhist party legislators and former health minister Mithripala Sirisena, who is challenging Rajapaksa’s bid for a third term, have defected after the president announced snap elections last month. Two opposition legislators have left to join the ruling party.

Political analysts see a tight race between Rajapaksa and Sirisena, whose New Democratic Front has promised to eliminate rampant corruption and reduce prices of essential goods and fuel by cutting taxes.

Rajapaksa said on Tuesday he would ensure good governance and media freedom if he bags a third term.

In the forex market, the three-day forwards, or spot-next, were traded at 131.99/132.00 per dollar at 0552 GMT compared with Wednesday’s close of 131.99, dealers said.

“The spot next has started trading, and it seems the cenbank is comfortable with spot next trading,” said a currency dealer asking not to be named.

The spot currency was not traded.

($1 = 131.1000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)

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