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(LEAD) S Korean shares up for 4th session in row, ahead of FOMC meeting

All News 16:41 March 14, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean shares rose for a fourth straight session on Monday, led by gains in techs and financials, but investors remained cautious ahead of a U.S. rate decision later this week, analysts said. The local currency rose to the highest level of the year.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) added 0.86 point, or 0.04 percent, to finish at 1,972.27. It opened higher tracking gains in the U.S. stock market, but pared earlier gains caving in to institutional investors' sell-offs.

Analysts said local shares won't likely rise sharply until Thursday when the March Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting takes place as investors take to the sidelines waiting for the results.

"If the FOMC plans rate hikes this year by 50 basis points or 75 basis points, lower than the 100 basis points predicted in December, the KOSPI is likely to get a boost and test the 2,000-point level this month," Eugene Investment & Securities Co. analyst Lee Sang-jae said.

On Monday, foreigners and retail investors were net buyers of a combined 219.41 billion won (US$185 million) worth of stocks. Institutions sold a net 244.65 billion won.

Technology and financial stocks led gains, offsetting losses in construction and logistics shares.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 0.72 percent to 1,258,000 won and Samsung Life Insurance advanced 4.61 percent to 113,500 won.

In contrast, top builder Hyundai Engineering & Construction fell 0.50 percent to 39,850 won and top automaker Hyundai Motor shed 0.34 percent to 148,500 won.

South Korea's won climbed to a nine-week high as rising stocks and recovering oil prices pushed up demand for risky assets. The local currency closed at 1,186.10 won against the U.S. dollar, up 7.00 won from Friday's close.

"With all eyes on the FOMC meeting due Wednesday (U.S. time), the won-dollar rate may fall below the 1,180-won level this week if there is not a further rate increase this month," Samsung Futures currency analyst Jeon Seung-ji said.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys lost 1.8 basis points to 1.532 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond fell 1.2 basis points at 1.662 percent.


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