Korean stocks finished 0.26 percent lower on Monday as investors stepped to the sidelines amid jitters over fourth-quarter corporate earnings and the expiry of options later this week, analysts said. The local currency fell against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 5.39 points to 2,080.81, after setting a fresh record close of 2,086.2 on Friday. Trading volume was moderate at 336.9 million shares worth 7.2 trillion won ($6.4 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 405 to 394.
“This week marks the beginning of the fourth-quarter earnings season. Growing views that numbers will come below market estimates are denting investor sentiment,” said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co.
“Other factors such as the KOSPI’s recent rally, foreigner’s potential profit-taking and options expiries on Thursday are weighing on investor jitters, prompting them to take a breather,” said Lee.
Techs led the decline. Samsung Electronics, the largest local firm by market cap, dipped 0.43 percent to 917,000 won and chip giant Hynix Semiconductor sank 3.07 percent to 25,300 won.
Major financial holding companies were also among the losers with Shinhan Financial Group, the third-largest market player, retreating 2.5 percent to 50,700 won.
Insurers, however, outperformed the market with leading life insurer Samsung Life Insurance adding 2.8 percent to 110,000 won and its non-life affiliate Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance gaining 2.02 percent to 227,000 won.
The local currency ended at 1,124.5 won to the greenback, down 2.2 won from Friday’s close, as China’s lower-than-expected December trade surplus stoked worries on its slowing economic growth, prompting investors to snap up the U.S. dollar, dealers said.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed slightly higher. The yield on three-year Treasuries fell 0.02 percentage point to 3.57 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds shed 0.02 percentage point to 4.28 percent.