Seoul shares up for 3rd day on Fed chief’s remarks; Korean won at 4-month high

SEOUL– Seoul stocks rose for the third day in a row Thursday on hope that the Federal Reserve would slow the pace of its rate hikes. The local currency hit the highest in four months against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced 7.31 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 2,479.84.

Trading volume was moderate at 482.6 million shares worth 8.7 trillion won (US$6.7 billion) with gainers outnumbering losers 642 to 224.

Foreign and institutional investors bought a combined 257.2 billion won of equities. Retail investors offloaded a net 276.3 billion won.

The local market opened sharply higher on gains in financials and tech stocks, as “dovish” remarks from U.S. Fed Chair Jerome Powell boosted investors’ appetite for risky assets, according to analyst Kim Seok-hwan from Mirae Asset Securities.

But in the run-up to closing bells, earlier gains were pared on profit taking and looming uncertainties on the domestic economy, Kim said.

South Korea suffered a trade deficit of $7 billion in November, marking the eighth consecutive month of trade deficit.

Major shares finished mixed.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics inched up 0.64 percent to 62,600 won, while smaller rival SK hynix dipped 0.35 percent to 84,700 won.

Bio firm Samsung Biologics descended 0.34 percent to 884,000 won, major chemical firm LG Chem slid 2.43 percent to 722,000 won, and refiner SK Innovation retreated 0.84 percent to 177,500 won.

IT shares closed higher following overnight highs on the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

Portal operator Naver inched up 0.27 percent to 187,500 won, messenger app operator Kakao advanced 2.66 percent to 57,900 won, and its online bank arm Kakao Bank jumped 5.79 percent to 26,500 won.

The local currency finished at 1,299.7 won against the greenback, up 19.1 won from the previous session’s close, closing below the 1,300-won mark for the first time in four months.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys slid 3.9 basis points to 3.650 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds fell 1.5 basis points to 3.682 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency