Seoul shares finish lower ahead of U.S. consumer price data

South Korean stocks closed a tad lower Thursday as investors remained cautious ahead of the release of U.S. consumer price index (CPI) data that would influence the Fed's rate-setting decision. The local currency fell slightly against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) lost 3.56 points, or 0.14 percent, to 2,601.56. Trading volume was moderate at 560.4 million shares worth 11.2 trillion won (US$8.5 billion), with winners outpacing losers 486 to 393.

Offshore investors and institutions dumped a combined 247.2 billion won worth of local shares, while individuals purchased a net 264.5 billion won.

Wall Street saw its major stock indices drop on investor caution a day before the U.S. CPI report.

Analysts said the KOSPI was also dragged down by a wait-and-see stance and profit-hunting after a 1.2 percent jump the previous day.

"Investors here have kept a wary eye on key factors like the upcoming CPI report and the movement of U.S. markets," said Han Ji-young, an analyst from Kiwoon Securities. "And they hunted for profit following the previous day's rally."

Tech shares were among the biggest losers, with top chipmaker Samsung Electronics falling 1.31 percent to 68,000 won, LG Electronics decreasing 2.67 percent to 101,900 won and its flat screen-making sister LG Display losing 0.21 percent to end at 14,090 won.

Leading online portal operators Naver fell 1.1 percent to 225,000 won and its rival Kakao retreated 0.38 percent to 52,600 won.

Retailers and hotel operators were strong on reports that the Chinese government lifted a yearslong ban on group travel to South Korea and other regions.

Leading department store operator Lotte Shopping jumped 5.79 percent to 76,800 won and its rival Shinsegae surged 9.33 percent to 211,000 won.

Samsung Group's hotel chain Hotel Shilla soared 17.3 percent to 86,800 won and Lotte Group's tour agency Lotte Tour Development shot up by the daily limit of 29.99 percent to 13,350 won.

The Korean won ended at 1,316 won against the U.S. dollar, down 0.3 won from the previous session's close.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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