Seoul Stock Market Surges Nearly 2% Amid Export Growth and Stable Fed Rates

SEOUL — In a remarkable display of resilience, the Seoul stock market witnessed a significant surge of nearly 2 percent on Thursday, bucking the trend of overnight losses on Wall Street. This uptick was fueled by the robust performance of technology and automotive sectors, coupled with the continued rise in South Korea's exports for the fourth consecutive month.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Industry and Energy, South Korea's exports expanded to reach US$54.6 billion in January, marking a consistent upward trajectory for the fourth month. Notably, semiconductor shipments experienced a substantial increase of 56.2 percent year-on-year, the most significant rise since December 2017. This growth in exports contributed to the bullish sentiment in the market, overshadowing concerns about the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate policies.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) climbed 45.37 points, or 1.82 percent, closing at 2,542.46. Trading volumes were robust, with 741.3 million shares valued at approximately 13.3 trillion won (US$9.98 billion) changing hands. Market dynamics were positive, with advancing issues outnumbering decliners 668 to 239.

Despite the Federal Reserve's decision to maintain its benchmark lending rate unchanged for the fourth consecutive session, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell's indication that a rate cut in March is unlikely, the KOSPI market found support from the strong export figures. Analyst Lee Jae-seon from Hyundai Motor Securities highlighted that the market's positive response was largely attributable to the encouraging export data, suggesting a sustained optimism for future rate adjustments by the Fed.

In sectoral performance, technology and financial stocks led the gains. Samsung Electronics, a market heavyweight, saw its shares rise by 1.24 percent to close at 73,600 won, while KB Financial experienced a notable surge of 8.30 percent to 61,300 won. The automotive sector also witnessed brisk trading, with Hyundai Motor and Kia posting gains of 6.89 percent and 3.30 percent, respectively. The approval from Japan's antitrust regulator for the merger of Korean Air and Asiana Airlines further buoyed airline stocks, with Korean Air edging up by 0.89 percent.

However, not all sectors shared in the day's gains, as bio shares faced some setbacks. Samsung Biologics and Celltrion saw their shares decline by 1.31 percent and 0.56 percent, respectively.

The Korean won appreciated against the U.S. dollar, closing at 1,331.80 won, up 2.80 won from the previous session. Bond prices ended the day mixed, with the yield on three-year Treasuries marginally rising by 0.6 basis point to 3.267 percent, while the yield on five-year government bonds slightly decreased by 0.1 basis point to 3.293 percent.

The day's market movements underscore the resilience of the South Korean economy and its stock market, demonstrating how robust export performance and sector-specific advancements can influence investor sentiment, even amidst broader global economic uncertainties.

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