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(LEAD) Seoul stocks dip 1.5 pct on virus woes, Korean won sharply down

All News 16:37 February 21, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS photo, bond yields at bottom)

SEOUL, Feb. 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean stocks sank 1.5 percent Friday as the country's coronavirus cases rose sharply for the second straight day. The Korean won tumbled to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in five months.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 32.66 points, or 1.49 percent, to close at 2,162.84, its lowest in two weeks. Trading volume was high at 619 million shares worth 6.7 trillion won (US$5.5 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 761 to 109.

The index moved below the flat line throughout the day as investors remained jittery over the novel coronavirus spreading across the country.

A currency dealer walks by screens showing the Korean won-U.S. dollar currency rate (R) and the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) at a dealing room at Hana Bank in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2020. (Yonhap)

South Korea reported 52 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing its total number of infections to 156. The number of COVID-19 infections here has almost tripled in just three days.

"The number of new coronavirus patients has been a crucial factor in the market," said Noh Dong-kil, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities.

Institutional investors dumped a net 533 billion won worth of local shares. Foreigners bought a net 218 billion won, while retail investors scooped up a net 285 billion won.

Most large caps closed lower.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 1.33 percent to 59,200 won, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix slid 0.96 percent to 103,000 won.

Leading automaker Hyundai Motor dropped 1.54 percent to 128,000 won, and auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis shed 1.08 percent to 228,500 won.

Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung BioLogics dipped 2.41 percent to 486,500 won, and the country's No. 1 chemical firm LG Chem plunged 2.86 percent to 407,000 won.

The local currency closed at 1,209.2 won against the greenback, sharply down 10.5 won from the previous session's close, and its lowest level since Sept. 3, 2019, when it closed at 1,215.6 won.

The local currency fell 19.9 won against the greenback over the last two days.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 5.2 basis points to 1.182 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond dropped 6.4 basis points to 1.267 percent.

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