South Korean stocks closed 0.36 percent lower on Monday as key exporters lost ground amid concerns over a strengthening won and a lack of strong upward momentum, analysts said. The local currency tumbled against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) slipped 6.98 points to 1,939.71. Trading volume was light at 336.2 million shares worth 4.33 trillion won (US$3.96 billion), with decliners outnumbering gainers 433 to 378.
"Unfavorable foreign exchange conditions, weak macro-economic momentum and geopolitical risks led investors to scale back their holdings," said Lim Dong-lak, an analyst at Hanyang Securities Co.
"While foreigners are unlikely to return to a buying mode soon, economic data at home and abroad that is scheduled to be released this week may limit further declines," he added.
Blue-chip exporters lost ground across the board, with market bellwether Samsung Electronics slumping 3.18 percent to 1,372,000 won. The company, which released its fourth-quarter results last week, said it may suffer 3 trillion won in foreign exchange losses this year.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor fell 1.24 percent to 198,500 won, while steel giant POSCO tumbled 3 percent to 356,000 won.
In contrast, domestic-focused companies closed higher. Shinhan Financial Group jumped 4.07 percent to 42,150 won and discount chain operator E-mart soared 6.09 percent to 235,000 won.
Top builder Hyundai Engineering & Construction added 3.67 percent to 70,700 won after posting better-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter.
The local currency ended at 1,093.5 won to the greenback, down 19 won from Friday's close, as foreigners dumped their stocks, dealers said. (Yonhap News)