Korean stocks rose 0.9 percent to a fresh high on Thursday as auto and chemical shares got a boost from optimism over their first-quarter earnings, analysts said. The local currency edged up against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced 19.14 points to a new record-high close of 2,141.06. The previous record was 2,130.43 set on April 5. Trading volume was moderate at 365 million shares worth 9.4 trillion won ($8.6 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 429 to 388.
The total capitalization of the main stock market also reached a record high of 1,200.58 trillion won.
Bullish earnings hopes sent auto companies and chemical makers sharply higher, lending support to the broader key index.
“Investors now seem to have a firm belief on auto and chemical companies’ strong first-quarter earnings,” Seo Dong-pil, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities, said. “Bright earnings hopes are driving the market out of concerns over further inflation growth.”
Top automaker Hyundai Motor jumped 4.47 percent to 222,000 won thanks to its growing share in the global car market. Its smaller affiliate Kia Motors rose 2.45 percent to end at 75,300 won.
Leading auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis shot up 5.81 percent to 355,000 won.
LG Chem, the nation’s biggest chemical maker, surged 4.19 percent to 297,500 won.
Financial companies, however, lost ground due to mounting worries that increasing loan defaults by builders may hurt their profits and asset quality. Top banking group KB Financial Group slumped 1.94 percent to 55,600 won, with smaller rival Shinhan Financial Group sinking 1.13 percent to 48,000 won.
The Korean won ended at 1,086.8 won to the U.S. dollar, up 1 won from Wednesday’s close, on increased demand for the local currency, dealers said.