(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom)
SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- Seoul shares ended almost unchanged Monday, the first trading session of the year, amid concerns that China may retaliate against the decision to deploy an advanced anti-missile defense system on South Korean soil. The local currency lost ground against the greenback.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) edged down 0.3 point, or 0.01 percent, to 2,026.16. Trading volume was slim at 227.41 million shares worth 2.59 trillion won (US$2.14 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 449 to 355.
Institutional investors sold a net 87.1 billion won worth of local stocks, while foreigners and individuals scooped up 29.8 billion won and 38.6 billion won worth of shares, respectively.
"The KOSPI stayed in a tight range due to the cautious mode among foreigners," said Lee Kyung-min, an analyst at Daeshin Investment & Securities, noting that the KOSPI needs market-moving events.
Most large caps closed mixed.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gained 0.17 percent to 1,805,000 won, continuing a two-day winning streak, on an upbeat belief that the tech firm could pull off market forecast-beating earnings for the fourth quarter of 2016.
Market consensus for the operating income of the South Korean tech company is 7.91 trillion won in the October-December period. Many local securities firms, however, have been raising their earnings outlook beyond 8 trillion won for the tech behemoth.
Global chipmaker SK hynix added 2.46 percent to 45,800 won and POSCO, a major steelmaker, advanced 1.17 percent to 260,500 won.
Samsung SDI, the battery-making unit of Samsung Group, lost 2.75 percent to close at 106,000 won and top chemical producer LG Chem was down 3.07 percent to 253,000 won on the news that China will exclude vehicles with South Korean batteries from receiving subsidies.
AmorePacific, the top cosmetics maker, also tumbled 4.98 percent to 305,500 won on reports that China disallowed chartered planes from South Korea just ahead of a major holiday.
There are mounting concerns that China would take further retaliatory measures against Seoul's planned deployment of a U.S. air defense system, known as THAAD.
Leading automaker Hyundai Motor was up 2.74 percent to 150,000 won and its sister company, Kia Motors, added 0.64 percent to 39,500 won.
The local currency closed at 1,208.00 won against the U.S. greenback, down 0.30 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed mixed. The yield on three-year Treasurys was unchanged at 1.638 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond slipped 0.9 basis point to 1.790 percent.
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