SEOUL-- South Korean stocks retreated Thursday amid concerns of new coronavirus variants that weakened investors' appetite for risky assets. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) lost 14.62 points, or 0.44 percent, to close at 3,282.06 points.
Trading volume was moderate at about 1.1 billion shares worth some 15.7 trillion won (US$13.9 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 525 to 317.
Foreigners sold a net 406 billion won, while retail investors bought 1.3 billion won. Institutions offloaded a net 875 billion won.
Stocks got off to a lackluster start after South Korean authorities pushed back the easing of the distancing measures in the greater Seoul area for a week, citing risks from the highly contagious delta strain of COVID-19.
"Risks about the Delta strain seem to have pulled down cyclical stocks, with investors weighing the virus's impact on individual stocks," said Meritz Securities analyst Lee Jin-woo.
Bio shares advanced in Seoul, while most other large caps slumped.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics retreated 0.74 percent to 80,100 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix lost 2.35 percent to 124,500 won.
Internet portal operator Naver declined 1.08 percent to 413,000 won, and its rival Kakao fell 1.84 percent to 160,000 won.
Giant pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics added 1.66 percent, and electric battery maker Samsung SDI jumped 3.72 percent to 724,000 won. SK Innovation plunged 8.8 percent to 269,500 won after the firm said it is considering a spin-off of its battery unit.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor gained 1.04 percent to 242,000 won, but leading chemical firm LG Chem decreased 0.59 percent to 845,000 won.
The local currency closed at 1,133.1 won against the U.S. dollar, down 7 won from the previous session's close.
The secondary Kosdaq index advanced 0.55 percent, or 5.68 points, to close at another historic high of 1,035.64 points, thanks to its high portion of bio and pharmaceutical stocks.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 2.1 basis points to 1.469 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond rose 1.7 basis points to 1.756 percent.
Source: Yonhap News Agency