Seoul shares end nearly flat ahead of Fed’s rate-setting meeting

SEOUL– South Korean stocks finished almost unchanged Tuesday as investors remain cautious ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate-setting meeting and the release of key inflation data. The local currency rose against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index lost 0.62 point, or 0.03 percent, to close at 2,372.40.

Trading volume was a bit light at 438.75 million shares worth 6.39 trillion won (US$4.90 billion), with decliners outstripping gainers 436 to 416.

The market opened higher on solid gains on Wall Street but had fallen to negative territory after choppy trading.

Foreign investors sold a net 113.7 billion won worth of shares, while institutions and retail investors bought 44.35 billion won and 36.67 billion won worth of shares, respectively.

“Investors have sought market direction from the Fed meeting and its economic assessment. The upcoming data on consumer prices would also shape the outlook for its monetary policy path for months to come,” Kiwoom Securities analyst Han Ji-young said.

The Fed will begin a two-day meeting on Tuesday (U.S. time), where it is widely expected to deliver a 50-basis point hike, compared to its previous 75 basis point increases.

But Chair Jerome Powell has called for maintaining aggressive tightening for the time being to curb inflation, deepening concerns over a global economic downturn. He plans to have a news conference following the meeting.

The U.S. consumer inflation data will be available Tuesday, which will show whether inflation recedes.

In Seoul, big-cap shares ended mixed.

Market behemoth Samsung Electronics rose 0.34 percent to 59,700 won, and chip giant SK hynix jumped 1.48 percent to 82,300 won on bargain hunting.

But battery maker LG Energy Solutions skidded 1.10 percent to 496,500 won, and leading chemical firm LG Chem lost 0.80 percent to 623,000 won.

Bio shares gathered ground on news that major countries suffer shortage of antibiotics and other drugs. Samsung Biologics added 0.61 percent to 820,000 won and Celltrion jumped 1.42 percent to 179,000 won.

But carmakers sank, with top automaker Hyundai Motor falling 2.45 percent to 159,500 won and its affiliate Kia diving 3.99 percent to 62,500 won.

The Korean won ended at 1,306.0 won against the U.S. dollar, up 1.2 won from the previous session’s close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed mixed. The yield on three-year Treasurys remained unchanged at 3.623 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond rose 0.5 basis point to 3.583 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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