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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on June 9)

All News 07:20 June 09, 2016

Lingering 'BOXPI'
:Stocks choked by overstated negative factors 

It seems that South Korea's stock market has become more frequently swayed by external factors. The situation is quite different from past years, when many local and foreign analysts didn’t hesitate to praise the fundamentals of major companies traded on the Korea Exchange, despite some negative external factors.

These days, the benchmark KOSPI has become extremely sensitive to remarks by foreign officials or analysts, even if the remarks suggest just a possible option among a variety of scenarios.

A representative case is the U.S. Federal Reserve's move to raise its base rate. Following its hike last December, few people would deny the feasibility that the Fed would continue to push for hikes. Its further raising would no longer be a surprise to the global market.

Nevertheless, the Korean bourse has continuously been influenced by remarks of Fed members including chair Janet Yellen. More precisely, some local institutions appear to be making the most of her simple remarks.

Whenever Yellen expressed her will to raise the rate, the KOSPI had to stay in a bearish mode for several weeks amid an allegedly vigorous selling streak of local institutions. The net-selling was often conducted in the form of short sales via borrowed stocks.

However, the Fed has not raised the rate in any of the three gatherings so far this year. In addition, the possibility of a hike in its June 14-15 meeting is falling, while the KOSPI was weak again throughout May, posting between 1,950 and 1,990 points.

When the index tried to break the 2,050 barrier on the back of diminishing negative factors, local institutions again engaged in massive selling without giving any particular reason. As the index has been confined in the range of between 1,850 and 2,050 for several years, many have taken to calling it the "BOXPI."

Some foreign institutions have enjoyed the local institutions' typical trading patterns without reversing their short-selling mode. They could purchase massive shares of major conglomerates at a bargain.

Over the past decade, the Financial Services Commission and the Korea Exchange have continued to pledge that they would develop the market by instituting a variety of policies to boost the index.

But there is deep distrust in regulators among small investors, many of whom complain that prices of local stocks were not dependent upon corporate fundamentals, but institutional investors' sentiment.

Recently, authorities have had to respond to speculation among some critics that policymakers' intentions behind the extension of daily trading hours is collecting more securities transaction taxes. Starting from Aug. 1, the daily trading session of the equity market will be extended by 30 minutes. The closing time of the main and secondary bourses will be changed from the present 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Critics also claim that brokerage firms could take more in service charges on buy or sell orders. In addition, there is the possibility that state pension funds, paid into by citizens, will be more frequently exploited as a tool to increase the government's tax revenue.

In June 2015, the local market implemented a revised system to allow stocks to rise or fall daily by up to 30 percent of their previous closing prices, doubling the previous 15 percent limit. Though the authorities said the move was aimed at market reinvigoration, the effect has been minimal so far.

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