(LEAD) Seoul shares nearly flat ahead of U.S. inflation data

South Korean stocks finished nearly flat Wednesday as investors stayed on their toes ahead of U.S. inflation data, a key indicator of the Fed's upcoming rate-setting decision. The local currency fell against the U.S. greenback.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) lost 1.88 points, or 0.07 percent, to finish at 2,534.70. Trading volume was moderate at 411.2 million shares worth 9.09 trillion won (US$6.83 billion), with decliners outnumbering gainers 549 to 321.

Individuals sold a net 184.4 billion won worth of local shares, while foreign and institutional investors scooped up a combined net 165.3 billion won.

The upcoming U.S. consumer price index for August, slated to be released later in the day, weighed heavily on Wall Street overnight as the data is expected to provide clues about the Federal Reserve's tightening policy before the monetary policy meeting next week.

All three U.S. stock indexes closed lower Tuesday (U.S. time), with the Nasdaq tumbling more than 1 percent amid a slide for technology stocks, including Apple Inc. and Oracle.

"On Wall Street, tech shares led the decline due to rising oil prices and increasing pressure on interest rates," said Noh Dong-gil, an analyst from Shinhan Securities Co. "Investors will likely maintain their cautious mode until the Fed's rate-setting meeting next week."

In Seoul, market heavyweights finished in mixed territory.

Tech shares were among the winners, with Samsung Electronics, the world's largest memory chipmaker, gaining 0.57 percent to 70,900 won, and its rival SK hynix climbing 1.54 percent to 118,500 won.

Top mobile carrier SK Telecom rose 1.53 percent to 49,700 won, and No. 2 KT Corp. added 1.46 percent to 31,250 won.

Automakers were bullish as industry leader Hyundai Motor and its labor union reached a tentative wage agreement without a strike. Shares of Hyundai Motor jumped 1.93 percent to 189,800 won, and those of its smaller affiliate Kia advanced 1.03 percent to 78,500 won.

But battery and chemical companies went south, with major chemicals maker LG Chem losing 3.4 percent to 540,000 won and leading battery maker LG Energy Solution falling 1 percent to 494,500 won.

Leading gamemaker NCSOFT skidded 1.62 percent to 243,400 won, and Netmarble tumbled 12 percent to 46,550 won.

Retailers finished in negative territory as Shinsegae declined 1.18 percent to 208,500 won, and Hyundai Department Store dropped 2.82 percent to 65,400 won.

The Korean won ended at 1,330 won against the U.S. dollar, down 2.2 won from Tuesday's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 1.0 basis point to 3.853 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds dropped 1.0 basis point to 3.880 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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