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(LEAD) Seoul stocks close nearly flat on foreign sell-offs

All News 16:38 February 17, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS photo, bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korean stocks closed nearly flat Monday as foreigners dumped local shares amid lingering concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) dropped 1.42 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 2,242.17. Trading volume was moderate at 453 million shares worth 5.5 trillion won (US$4.6 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 488 to 319.

After opening lower, the index reached an intraday high of 2,250.05 points in the morning session on news that China's central bank decided to cut the interest rate on its medium-term loans to stimulate its economy against the novel coronavirus outbreak.

This file photo taken on Feb. 7, 2020, shows dealers at a KEB Hana Bank branch in Seoul. (Yonhap)

However, the index lost steam later and hovered around the flat line.

"Although the Chinese stock market advanced more than 1 percent, investors here apparently remained cautious and locked in recent gains," said Seo Sang-young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities said.

Foreign investors sold a net 229.5 billion worth of local shares, while institutions scooped up a net 15 billion won. Retail investors bought a net 195 billion won.

Large caps were mixed at the close.

Market kingpin Samsung Electronics fell 0.49 percent to 61,500 won, but No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix advanced 0.48 percent to 105,000 won.

Leading carmaker Hyundai Motor rose 1.50 percent to 135,500 won, while auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis increased 0.84 percent to 239,000 won.

Top pharmaceutical firm Celltrion spiked 2.76 percent to 186,000 won, but the country's No. 1 steelmaker POSCO slipped 0.46 percent to 218,500 won.

The local currency closed at 1,183.9 won against the dollar, down 0.90 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 1.0 basis point to 1.320 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond dropped 1.9 basis points to 1.435 percent.

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