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(LEAD) Seoul stocks sharply down amid new coronavirus fear

All News 16:37 January 23, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with bond yields at bottom; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korean shares ended lower Thursday after a rebound of more than 1 percent the previous day, as foreign and institutional investors were cautious amid rising concerns over the spread of Wuhan coronavirus.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 21.12 points, or 0.93 percent, to 2,246.13.

Foreign and institutional investors sold a combined 612.4 billion won (US$524 million) worth of stocks, weighing down the bourse.

An electronic signboard at KEB Hana Bank in Seoul shows the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) down 0.93 percent to close at 2,246.13 points on Jan. 23, 2020. (Yonhap)

Daishin Securities analyst Lee Kyung-min said investors also went for profit-taking ahead of the holiday after the index jumped to its highest level in 15 months on Wednesday.

The Lunar New Year's holiday is one of the two major traditional Korean holidays and falls on Saturday, forming part of a four-day break that runs Friday through Monday.

Investors fretted over the potential fallout from the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has been spreading in China and other countries.

China said Thursday that the virus had killed 17 so far, with over 570 citizens confirmed to be infected, amid concerns that the pneumonia-like illness is spreading quickly and widely.

Beijing pledged on Wednesday to pool all of its resources to contain the further spread of the disease, especially since many people have time off till the end of the month so they can visit family and friends.

Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States have also reported confirmed cases of the disease.

In Seoul, large-cap stocks were mixed.

Market cap Samsung Electronics was down 2.41 percent at 60,800 won, and South Korea's No. 2 chipmaker, SK hynix Inc., fell 2.28 percent to 98,700 won.

Among gainers, top carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. was up 2.76 percent at 130,500 won, and Samsung BioLogics, a biopharmaceutical unit of South Korea's top conglomerate, Samsung Group, surged 6.86 percent to 483,000 won.

The local currency closed at 1,168.70 won against the U.S. dollar, down 4.10 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 1.3 basis points to 1.424 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond shed 1.3 basis points to reach 1.537 percent.


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