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(LEAD) S. Korean stocks up 0.84 pct on ECB hopes

All Headlines 15:51 March 10, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean shares advanced 0.84 percent on Thursday, led by gains in techs, energy stocks and financials, as investors bet that the European Central Bank (ECB) may roll out additional easing steps, analysts said. The local currency sharply rose against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 16.38 points to finish at 1,969.33. Trading volume was moderate at 346 million shares worth 5.1 trillion won (US$4.24 billion), with gainers beating losers 484 to 311.

The ECB is set to hold its monetary policy meeting later in the day with investors expecting a set of bold and drastic measures from the bank.

"The ECB meeting would determine whether the recent market rally would continue or not," said Kim Sung-hwan, an analyst at Book Securities. "If its measures fall short of market expectations, the market may face another rout."

Analysts said investors are growingly pinning high hopes on concerted efforts by central banks, including the U.S. Federal Reserve. The Bank of Korea kept its policy rate at a record low of 1.5 percent earlier in the day.

Foreigners scooped up a net 636 billion won worth of local stocks, while institutional investors offloaded a net 568 billion won.

Technology firms, energy and financial firms remained in positive terrain, while automakers came under selling pressure.

Market behemoth Samsung Electronics jumped 2.6 percent to end at 1,225,000 won. Naver, the operator of the country's leading Internet portal, advanced 4.44 percent to finish at 635,000 won, and AmorePacific, the top cosmetics maker, gained 2.65 percent at 366,500 won.

Top refiner SK Innovation rose 3.32 percent to end at 155,500 won, and No. 3 player S-Oil climbed 3.11 percent at 86,300 won.

Steelmakers remained in positive terrain, with No. 1 POSCO rising 1.86 percent to 218,500 won.

The state-run utility firm, the Korea Electric Power Corp., advanced 1.05 percent to 58,000 won.

Carmakers traded bearish, with top player Hyundai Motor falling 1 percent to 148,000 won and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors shedding 2.15 percent to 47,900 won.

The local currency closed at 1,203.5 won against the greenback, up 12.7 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 3 basis points to 1.500 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond rose 1.9 basis points at 1.619 percent.

sam@yna.co.kr
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