Korean stocks ended 1.22 percent higher on Thursday as foreign investors sharply increased their holdings on reviving appetite for riskier assets, analysts said. The local currency gained ground against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index advanced 24.6 points to 2,036.78. Trading volume was light at 290.3 million shares worth 6.56 trillion won ($5.8 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 535 to 269.
“Overnight gains on Wall Street and reviving appetite for riskier assets prompted foreigners to drive up the KOSPI,” said Shinyoung Securities Co. analyst Lee Kyung-soo.
“There are lingering uncertainties such as the Libyan unrest and Europe’s debt woes, but it seems that investors are gaining confidence that situations will improve,” said Lee, adding that stock markets across Asia mostly gained ground.
Automakers led the climb as investors scooped them up on prospects of solid first-quarter profits. Hyundai Motor added 4.2 percent to 198,500 won and Hyundai Mobis, the country’s largest auto parts maker, jumped 5.65 percent to 308,500 won.
Samsung Electronics edged up 0.8 percent to 880,000 won, mirroring market opinion that it had fallen too much in recent sessions.
Nongshim, the country’s second-largest food maker, rose by the daily limit of 15 percent to 260,000 won on growing views its instant noodle business will benefit from Japan’s March 11 quake.
Hyundai Merchant Marine, the flagship unit of Hyundai Group, fell 3.16 percent to 32,200 won. On Wednesday, the shipper had rallied by the daily limit of 15 percent on speculation that it may become a takeover target.
Leading steelmaker POSCO closed at 497,500 won, down 0.4 percent from Wednesday’s close.
The local currency ended at 1,121 won to the greenback, up 3.5 won from Wednesday’s close, as demand for the Korean unit rose on the back of the KOSPI’s solid rise, dealers said.