Seoul shares nearly flat amid high inflation, Ukraine woes

SEOUL– South Korean stocks closed nearly unchanged Tuesday as investors took to the sidelines amid lingering concerns over high inflation and the crisis surrounding Ukraine. The Korean won rose against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) added 1.3 points, or 0.05 percent, to close at 2,759.20 points.

Trading volume was moderate at around 1.58 billion shares worth some 9.81 trillion won (US$8.08 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 423 to 421.

Individual and foreign investors picked up shares worth 238.70 billion won and 11.67 billion won, respectively, while institutions and foreigners sold stocks worth 247.9 billion won.

Seoul shares opened a tad lower despite Wall Street gains overnight, and then fluctuated between positive and negative terrain throughout the session, as concerns have grown about inflation and its possible impacts on corporate profits and economic growth.

According to the data from the state statistics agency, South Korea’s consumer prices grew 4.1 percent in March from a year earlier, marking the fastest growth in more than 10 years amid soaring global energy prices.

Eyes are on the Bank of Korea’s rate-setting meeting scheduled for next week. The central bank has raised the key interest rate three times since August last year to tame inflation.

Investors are also awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve’s minutes from its March meeting, set to be released on Wednesday, during which it raised interest rates for the first time since 2018.

“Investors are worried about the Fed’s further tightening amid high inflation, which could hurt growth. The possibility of Western nations’ additional sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine also dampened their sentiment,” Kiwoom Securities analyst Kim Se-heon said.

Battery makers rose after Tesla reported strong quarterly performance.

LG Energy Solution soared 2.39 percent to 449,000 won, and Samsung SDI jumped 2.56 percent to 600,000 won. LG Chem also climbed 2.66 percent to 540,000 won.

Auto shares ended higher. Top carmaker Hyundai Motor grew 0.56 percent to 179,000 won, while its affiliated Kia inched up 0.14 percent to 73,800 won.

But steel and big-cap tech shares ended lower on profit-taking.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics fell 0.14 percent to 69,200 won, and major chipmaker SK hynix lost 0.43 percent to 116,500 won. Top steelmaker POSCO Holdings decreased 1.53 percent to 289,500 won.

Financial firms lost ground on gloomy earnings forecast amid the government’s lending curbs and the slowdown in the property market.

Financial heavyweight KB Financial Group tumbled 2.62 percent to 59,500 won, and internet bank Kakao Bank skidded 1.97 percent to 49,800 won.

The local currency closed at 1,212.70 won against the U.S. dollar, up 1.7 won from the previous session’s close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 4.2 basis points to 2.879 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond rose 1.0 basis point to 3.029 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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