(LEAD) Seoul shares close nearly flat on U.S. rate-hike woes

SEOUL, South Korean stocks finished almost flat Wednesday as better-than-expected U.S. retail sales data sparked concerns over a further rate hike by the Federal Reserve. The Korean won increased against the U.S. greenback.

After choppy trading, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index inched up 2.43 points, or 0.1 percent, to close at 2,462.6.

Trading volume was heavy at 899.4 million shares worth 8.75 trillion won (US$6.48 billion), with losers slightly outnumbering gainers 475 to 390.

Foreign investors scooped up a net 342.3 billion won worth of local shares, while institutions sold a net 48 billion won and individuals dumped 277.9 billion won.

"In the United States, stronger-than-expected September retail sales shrugged off concerns over slowing consumption, but investors were worried about monetary tightening," Choi Yoo-joon, an analyst from Shinhan Securities, said.

He noted that the U.S. government's latest restrictions on the sale of semiconductors from American companies to China will have limited impact on the Korean market.

An electronic signboard at a Hana Bank dealing room in Seoul shows the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed at 2,462.6 points on Oct. 18, 2023, up 0.1 percent from the previous session's close

In Seoul, market heavyweights traded in mixed territory.

Samsung Electronics rose 1.59 percent to 70,500 won and its chipmaking rival SK hynix closed unchanged at 130,000 won.

Leading oil refinery SK Innovation retreated 1.6 percent to 147,200 won but No. 3 S-Oil gained 1.53 percent to 72,800 won.

Top retailer Lotte Shopping added 1 percent to 70,700 won, but Shinsegae edged down 0.5 percent to 178,400.

Battery shares went down, with LG Energy Solution declining 2.11 percent to 465,000 won and Samsung SDI skidding 2.29 percent to 512,000 won.

Top carmaker Hyundai Motor advanced 1.75 percent to 191,800 won and its sister Kia climbed 1.94 percent to 83,900 won.

The local currency ended at 1,349.6 won against the U.S. dollar, up 4 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed sharply lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys increased 4 basis points to 4.031 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds rose 5.9 basis points to 4.151 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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