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Sri Lanka trading halted soon after reopen from lockdown

Sri Lanka's stock exchange was shut 38 seconds after opening Monday for the first time following a 52-day virus lockdown, as a plunge in share prices triggered a circuit breaker.

The Colombo Stock Exchange was closed on March 20 when the government imposed a lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus, with only essential services allowed to operate.

But soon after the restart, prices tumbled 10 percent, leading the exchange to stop trading.

Analysts said the stock market was likely to perform badly when it reopened, with the pandemic devastating key sectors of the economy including tourism, banking and exports.

"This should have been expected with foreign investors keen to liquidate their stakes," Pasindu Perera, at Candor Equities, said. "This crisis is unlike any other, and we may just be at the start of it. So in the short to medium term the selling will persist."

The market's top 20 stocks have tumbled 38 percent since the first virus patient was reported on January 27.

The island nation has reported 863 cases and nine deaths so far.

The government eased the lockdown on Monday in a bid to revive the economy, which was already struggling to recover from the deadly Easter Sunday bombings in April last year.

Health authorities have also said the spread of the virus was under control.

Offices were allowed to reopen with reduced staffing but schools and food outlets remained closed.

Sri Lanka in late March called on international lenders to grant it and other developing nations a debt moratorium and defer repayments as they grapple with the pandemic. 

The country last week appealed to its 1.5 million government employees to donate their May salary to the government, saying it would help to narrow the budget deficit by saving some 100 billion rupees ($525 million). With Bloomberg News

Topics: Sri Lanka , virus lockdown , Colombo Stock Exchange , Pasindu Perera , COVID-19
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