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(LEAD) Seoul stocks almost flat amid wait-and-see note

All News 16:02 January 24, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korean shares ended almost flat Tuesday, despite gains in market heavyweights, as investors took a wait-and-see attitude ahead of major events both at home and abroad, analysts said. The South Korean currency declined against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) inched down 0.23 point, or 0.01 percent, to 2,065.76.

Trade volume came to 308.37 million shares worth 3.6 trillion won (US$3.1 billion), with decliners outnumbering advancers 545 to 284.

The KOSPI opened higher, led by gains in tech shares, such as market kingpin Samsung Electronics and global chipmaker SK hynix.

However, a further rise was limited as the investors took to the sidelines amid uncertainty over the protectionism policy of U.S. President Donald Trump. On Monday (local time), Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the U.S. from an Asia-Pacific free trade deal in a move that makes good on his campaign promise and underscores his protectionist stance on trade.

"The official U.S. withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) brought psychological impact to investors," said Bae Sung-young, an analyst at KB Securities Co.

Bae also said the investors are taking a wait-and-see attitude just ahead of Lunar New Year holiday which begins Friday and ends Monday.

Most large caps closed mixed.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gained 0.26 percent to end at 1,908,000 won, rising for a second consecutive day on the company's announcement of market forecast-beating earnings for the fourth quarter of last year.

Earlier in the day, the tech giant said its operating profit for the fourth quarter of 2016 jumped 50.11 percent on year, thanks to rising prices of semiconductors and display panels.

Global chipmaker SK hynix rose 1.57 percent to 51,600 won, also extending its winning streak to a second day, on news that SK Holdings, the holding firm of energy and telecom conglomerate SK Group, has decided to buy a controlling stake in LG Siltron.

In contrast, auto shares were in negative terrain.

Leading automaker Hyundai Motor was down 1.68 percent to 146,500 won, and its sister company, Kia Motors, shed 2.54 percent to 38,400 won. Auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis inched down 0.18 percent to 272,000 won.

The local currency closed at 1,165.90 won against the U.S. greenback, down 0.40 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys shed 1.2 basis points to 1.628 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond decreased 2.6 basis points to 1.801 percent.

khj@yna.co.kr
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