Foreign buying boosts S. Korean benchmark index

SEOUL-- Foreign investors bought South Korean stocks for a third straight session, fueling expectations that the country's benchmark index could break this year's record high, brokerage data showed Tuesday.

Foreign buying between Thursday and Monday came to nearly 700 billion won (US$617 million), according to data from Korea Exchange, the local bourse operator.

Foreigners' buying spree of local stocks came despite heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 2.39 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,176.13 in the first 15 minutes of trading on Tuesday.

Foreign buying of local stocks boosted expectations that the country's benchmark index could break this year's record high of 2,178.38 set on March 21.

The development came amid upward revisions on South Korea's growth forecast for this year and improved corporate earnings.

The Bank of Korea has raised its growth outlook for the country's gross domestic product to 2.6 percent for 2017, up 0.1 percentage point from its previous estimate released in January.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for South Korea's economic growth this year to 2.7 percent from 2.6 percent, citing clear signs of a turnaround in the global economy.

Lee Chang-mok, an analyst at NH Investment and Securities, said the KOSPI could break a record high this year as its upward momentum could persist due to a recovery in the worldwide economy and improved corporate earnings.

Hana Financial Investment also said major listed companies could increase dividends, noting that the free cash flow of companies listed in the KOSPI was calculated at 89 trillion won, accounting for 4.5 percent of total revenues.

Free cash flow refers to the money generated by a company's business activities minus overhead, taxes and investments.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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