COLOMBO, July 29 (Reuters) – Sri Lankan shares hit their highest close in six months on Monday, led by a rally in banks and diversified stocks along with healthy purchases by domestic investors. The rupee ended weaker due to importer dollar demand. ** The country’s benchmark stock index jumped for a fifth straight session to end 2.08% up at 5,995.20, its highest close since Jan. 29. ** Analysts said lower interest rates boosted local investor sentiment.
** However, the bourse is still down about 0.94% so far this year.
** The country’s stock market had a turnover of 1.8 billion rupees ($10.22 million), nearly three times of this year’s daily average of about 624.3 million rupees so far. Last year’s daily average came in at 834 million rupees. ** Foreign investors sold a net 317 million rupees worth of shares; the year-to-date net buying stood at 883.2 million rupees, index data showed. ** Hatton National Bank Plc climbed 8.2%, Ceylon Cold Stores Plc rose 5.5%, the biggest listed lender Commercial Bank of Ceylon Plc ended 3.4% higher and conglomerate John Keells Holdings Plc ended 1.3% firmer. ** Meanwhile, the currency ended weaker at 176.20/25 per dollar compared to Friday’s close of 176.15/25. ** The rupee is up 3.63% so far this year. ** The central bank left key interest rates unchanged on July 11 as expected, after cutting them in May to support the economy as tourism and investment plummeted in the wake of deadly suicide bombings in April. ** Foreign investors sold a net 3.74 billion rupees worth of government securities in the week ended July 24, extending the year-to-date net foreign outflow to 22.19 billion rupees, the central bank data showed. ** For a report on global markets, click ** For a report on major currencies, click ($1 = 176.1000 Sri Lankan rupees) (Reporting by Ranga Sirilal and Shihar Aneez; editing by Uttaresh.V)