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(LEAD) Seoul stocks close nearly flat on heightened coronavirus concerns

All News 16:32 February 19, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS photo, bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, Feb. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean stocks closed nearly flat Wednesday as investors remained wary over the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. The Korean won rose slightly against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 1.46 points, or 0.07 percent, to close at 2,210.34. Trading volume was moderate at 581 million shares worth 6.9 trillion won (US$5.8 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 537 to 305.

The index had a solid start, reaching as high as 2,226.00, but quickly fell below the flat line after local health authorities reported 15 additional novel coronavirus infections, the biggest daily jump in confirmed cases here, raising the total to 46.

After touching an intraday day low of 2,192.20 points, the index bounced back, but couldn't gain further momentum.

This file photo taken on Feb. 18, 2020, shows currency dealers at a dealing room at Hana Bank in Seoul. (Yonhap)

"The index had a good start following the news that U.S. President Donald Trump had rebuked his administration's plan to impose additional trade restrictions on China," said Ha In-hwan, an analyst at Meritz Securities. "But the market was apparently affected by the news that multiple coronavirus patients were confirmed in the country."

Foreigners dumped a net 220 billion worth of local shares, while institutional investors sold a net 19 billion won. Retail investors bought a net 167 billion won.

Large caps were mixed, although tech shares closed up.

Market kingpin Samsung Electronics rose 0.67 percent to 60,200 won, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix advanced 1.47 percent to 103,500 won.

Leading carmaker Hyundai Motor slid 0.75 percent to 131,500 won, and its sister company Kia Motors fell 0.12 percent to 41,300 won.

The country's No. 1 chemical firm, LG Chem, plunged 3.35 percent to 404,000 won, and pharmaceutical giant Celltrion slipped 1.63 percent to 181,500 won.

The local currency closed at 1,189.3 won against the dollar, up 0.2 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed mixed. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 1.3 basis points to 1.284 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond dropped 0.1 basis point to 1.380 percent.

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