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Seoul stocks open lower on global market rout

All News 09:37 March 10, 2020

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean shares opened lower for the second straight session on Tuesday as foreign investors continued to sell large-cap stocks amid growing worries about the global spread of the coronavirus and a headlong fall in oil prices.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price (KOSPI) Index fell 9.26 points, or 0.47 percent, to 1,945.51 in the first 15 minutes of trading.

On Monday, the main index fell below the psychologically important 2,000-point level by dipping more than 4 percent, as investors braced for continuing virus angst and a plunge in global oil prices.

Foreign investors sold a net 1.3 trillion won on Monday alone, the largest on record.

Tuesday's weak start followed heavy losses in the U.S. market over fears about the impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. The Dow Jones industrial average sank 7.79 percent on Monday (local time), with the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index plummeting 7.29 percent.

The coronavirus outbreak spread beyond China, where COVID-19 originated in December, in South Korea, Japan, Iran, Europe and the United States, dampening both business and consumer sentiment as well as hitting related industries hard.

The virus has infected more than 109,000 people in more than 100 countries and regions, with 3,809 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

In South Korea, the coronavirus has killed 51 people, mostly elderly patients with underlying illnesses, and infected nearly 7,500 others.

Before the market opening, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the government will temporarily ease its requirements for the designation of certain shares subject to a possible ban on short selling in a move to help stabilize markets. The measures will take effect on Wednesday.

Large-cap stocks were mixed.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics Co. fell 0.18 percent, top carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. shed 0.48 percent and leading wireless services provider SK Telecom Co. was down 0.68 percent.

Among gainers, No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix Inc. rose 0.81 percent, and top chemical firm LG Chem advanced 0.40 percent,

The local currency was trading at 1,199.90 won against the U.S. dollar, down 4.30 won from the previous session's close.

The Bank of Korea Gov. Lee Ju-yeol and Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom made a verbal intervention, saying South Korea will take timely measures to stabilize the foreign exchange market in case of an excessive one-sided movement.


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