SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- South Korean stocks continued to trade sharply lower late Monday morning amid growing tensions in the Middle East that are already beginning to send oil prices skyrocketing.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) lost 19.97 points, or 0.92 percent, to reach 2,156.49 as of 11:20 a.m.
The index opened sharply lower as investor sentiment was spooked by the escalating tension following the killing of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad by the United States.
Iran and Iraq have vowed retaliatory measures, and the U.S. has warned of additional strikes against Iran's cultural sites and severe punishing sanctions against Iraq.
Global oil prices jumped as much as 4 percent Friday, and crude futures have since surged about 6 percent, trading at more than US$70 per barrel in London, according to earlier reports.
Most large caps were in negative terrain in Seoul.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 0.54 percent, while top pharmaceutical firm Celltrion plunged 2.25 percent.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor gained 0.43 percent, but its smaller affiliate Kia Motors shed 0.48 percent.
The local currency was trading at 1,168.40 won against the U.S. dollar, down 2.30 won from the previous session's close.
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