Seoul shares end nearly flat amid global uncertainties

SEOUL-- South Korean shares closed nearly flat Wednesday as investors took a wait-and-see approach over the global economic slowdown and the U.S. central bank's monetary tightening. The Korean won went up against the U.S. dollar.

After a choppy session, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) inched down 0.2 point, or 0.01 percent, to 2,718.69 points.

Around 1.7 billion shares worth some 12.1 trillion won (US$9.8 billion) changed hands, with gainers outnumbering losers 513 to 317.

Foreigners scooped up a net 94.2 billion won worth of stocks. Individuals also purchased a net 75 billion won worth of stocks while institutions offloaded 161 billion won.

The index initially opened lower, bucking the overnight Wall Street rally led by technology shares.

Analysts said investors are wary of global economic uncertainties. The International Monetary Fund forecast that the global economy would see its growth slow to 3.6 percent this year, from 6.1 percent last year and 0.8 percentage point lower than its January forecast, citing downside risks stemming from the ongoing crisis surrounding Ukraine.

Adding to woes is the Federal Reserve's belt-tightening, as Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said interest rate hikes of as much as 75 basis point should not be ruled out.

"The local bourse market showed mixed trading and ended nearly flat as investors digested concerns over an interest rate hike despite the U.S. stock markets' gains," Kim Seok-hwan, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities, said.

Most large-cap stocks traded mixed across the board.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics inched up 0.15 percent to 67,400 won after opening lower and major battery maker LG Energy Solution climbed 0.23 percent to 436,500 won.

Carmakers also traded bullish, with top carmaker Hyundai Motor advancing 1.1 percent to 183,000 won and its affiliate Kia soaring 2.56 percent to 80,100 won.

In contrast, chip giant SK hynix was unchanged at 112,500 won.

Major bio firm Samsung Biologics sank 2.42 percent to 805,000 won, and Celltrion decreased 0.62 percent to 159,500 won.

The local currency closed at 1,236.1 won against the U.S. dollar, up 0.8 won from the previous session.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys lost 2.4 basis points to 2.957 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond inched down 0.9 basis point to 3.203 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency