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(LEAD) S. Korean stocks edge up on ECB steps

All Headlines 15:55 March 11, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, March 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korean shares inched up on Friday, led by gains in techs and automakers, as investors reacted positively to the European Central Bank (ECB)'s latest easing steps, analysts said. The local currency rose against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 2.08 points, or 0.11 percent, to finish at 1,971.41. Trading volume was slim at 299 million shares worth 4.12 trillion won (US$3.45 billion), with gainers beating losers 428 to 373.

The ECB unveiled measures that beat market expectations by cutting all its interest rates and expanding the scope of its bond-buying program, but its chief, Mario Draghi, ruled out the possibility of additional rate cuts down the road.

"The ECB unveiled its policy package by cutting all its rates, regarded as bolder than expected," said Soh Jae-yong, an analyst at Hana Investment & Securities.

But analysts said Draghi's remarks and the downward revision of economic growth forecast for the eurozone can stoke concerns about the effectiveness of its policy. They said investors will pay attention to the U.S. Federal Reserve's meeting slated for next week.

Foreigners bought 148 billion won worth of local stocks, while institutional investors offloaded a net 150 billion won.

Market behemoth Samsung Electronics jumped 1.97 percent to end at 1,249,000 won, and chipmaker SK hynix rose 1.32 percent to end at 30,700 won.

Top player Hyundai Motor climbed 0.68 to end at 149,000 won, and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors closed flat at 47,900 won.

Top steelmaker POSCO also remained unchanged at 218,500 won. The state-run utility firm Korea Electric Power Corp. advanced 0.34 percent to 58,200 won.

In contrast, AmorePacific, the top cosmetics maker, fell 2.46 percent at 357,500 won.

The local currency closed at 1,203.5 won against the greenback, up 12.7 won from the previous session's close, due to risk-averse sentiments.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed sharply lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 5 basis points to 1.550 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond rose 5.5 basis points at 1.674 percent.

sam@yna.co.kr
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