(ATTN: ADDS bond yields, weekly figure in last 2 paras, photo)
SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean stocks ended almost flat Friday, weighed down by lingering concerns over the United States' aggressive monetary tightening and a global economic slowdown. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 1.58 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 2,444.48.
Trading volume was moderate at about 579.34 million shares worth some 7.25 trillion won (US$5.54 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 543 to 316.
Foreign investors bought 197.89 billion won worth of shares, while individuals and institutions sold a net 150.04 billion won and 78.07 billion won, respectively.
The market opened higher, despite overnight losses on Wall Street, and had extended further to over 1 percent at one point. But most of the earlier gains were erased on renewed concerns over the U.S.' strong interest rate hikes and geopolitical risks.
"Expectations for the Federal Reserve's slowdown in its push for monetary tightening have faded on solid economic data. Concerns over a global economic downturn are likely to continue greater market volatility," Han Ji-young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities Co., said.
On Thursday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said rate hikes so far had "only limited effects on observed inflation" and the Fed's target rate should be up to at least 5 percent from the current level of below 4 percent.
Investors also closely watched the news that North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile toward the East Sea earlier in the day, according to analysts.
Tech blue chips gathered ground, following the previous session's deep losses, to cap the market's downturn.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 0.65 percent to 61,800 won, and chip giant SK hynix added 0.8 percent to 88,400 won.
Battery maker LG Energy Solutions inched up 0.17 percent to 598,000 won, and No. 1 chemical firm LG Chem increased 0.57 percent to 704,000 won. Samsung SDI went up 0.14 percent to 701,000 won.
But carmakers went down, with top automaker Hyundai Motor falling 0.29 percent to 169,500 won and its affiliate Kia shedding 0.45 percent to 66,000 won.
Major bio shares ended mixed. Samsung Biologics grew 0.8 percent to 882,000 won, while Celltrion tumbled 0.84 percent to 178,000 won.
Internet giant Naver lost 1.33 percent to 185,500 won, and Kakao, the operator of the popular mobile messenger Kakao Talk, retreated 2.37 percent to 57,700 won.
The local currency ended at 1,340.30 won against the U.S. dollar, down 1.20 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 1.7 basis points to 3.787 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond lost 1.7 basis points to 3.850 percent.
Seoul's key stock index went down 1.56 percent this week from a week ago on profit-taking from recent sharp gains.
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