(LEAD) Seoul shares tumble on concerns over Israel-Hamas war

South Korean stocks decreased sharply Monday as investor sentiment was dampened by rising concerns over the developing military tension in the Middle East. The local currency lost ground against the U.S. greenback.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index shed 19.91 points, or 0.81 percent, to close at 2,436.24, extending its losing streak to two straight sessions.

Trading volume was a heavy at 776.2 million shares worth 8.29 trillion won (US$6.12 billion), with losers far outnumbering gainers 644 to 248.

Foreigners dumped a net 207 billion won worth of local shares, offsetting a net purchase of 198.5 billion won by institutions.

"The sharp decline is affected by offshore investors' appetite for safe assets amid rising geopolitical concerns in the Middle East," said Seo Sang-young, an analyst from Mirae Asset Securities. "Also, a drop in U.S. tech shares last Friday also weighed heavily on South Korean stocks."

Latest news reports that Israel is preparing for a ground offensive into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have escalated concerns over a wider regional conflict.

An electronic signboard at a Hana Bank dealing room in Seoul shows the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed at 2,436.24 points on Oct. 16, 2023, down 0.81 percent from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)

An electronic signboard at a Hana Bank dealing room in Seoul shows the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index closed at 2,436.24 points on Oct. 16, 2023, down 0.81 percent from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)

Most shares closed in negative territory across the board.

Top-cap Samsung Electronics tumbled 1.03 percent to 67,300 won and its chipmaking rival SK hynix retreated 0.48 percent to 124,100 won.

Chemicals and battery shares were also among the big losers, with LG Chem sinking 2.84 percent to 513,000 won and LG Energy Solution slumping 2.07 percent to 474,000 won.

The tourism sector was hit hard by the possible new war in the Middle East. Flagship air carrier Korean Air Lines fell 1.84 percent to 19,780 won, and Asiana Airlines declined 0.3 percent to 10,000 won.

Hotel Shilla, a hotel operation unit under Samsung Group, slipped 2.22 percent to 70,400 won, and leading tourist agency Hanatour Service stayed flat at 42,000 won.

The local currency ended at 1,353.7 won against the U.S. dollar, down 3.7 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 1.6 basis points to 3.973 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds climbed 2.8 basis points to 4.064 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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