South Korean stocks closed 0.66 percent lower Monday, led by institutional profit-taking, while investors remained relatively calm toward the U.S. spending cuts, analysts said. The local currency fell sharply against the U.S.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) retreated 13.34 points to finish at 2,028.55. Trading volume was moderate at 352.4 million shares worth 4.28 trillion won (US$3.95 billion) with losers outstripping gainers 482 to 310.
"Investors shrugged off the sequester concerns, with foreigners buying local equities. Instead, institutional selling drove down the KOSPI," said Park Ok-hee, an analyst at IBK Investment & Securities Co.
Institutions, led by investment trusts, dumped a net 427.8 billion won, while overseas investors scooped up a net 302.9 billion won.
Most shares were in negative terrain, with steelmakers and brokerage houses leading the decline. No. 1 steelmaker POSCO plunged 2.97 percent to 343,000 won, with Woori Investment & Securities dipping 1.52 percent to 12,950 won.
Shares of Keystone Global, a local energy firm owned by an in-law of science minister nominee Kim Jeong-hoon, tumbled by the daily limit of 15 percent to 2,900 won, after Kim abruptly stepped down due to frustration over the parliamentary impasse.
In contrast, automakers gathered ground on the back of the falling local currency, spurred by the greenback's rise following the start of the U.S. budget cuts. Hyundai Motor climbed 0.69 percent to 219,500 won, and the smallest player, Ssangyong Motor, gained 1.43 percent to 6,400 won.
NHN Corp., South Korea's No. 1 portal service provider, surged
4.56 percent to 275,000 won, after a presidential committee decided to cancel regulatory measures on Web board games.
The local currency fell sharply against the greenback, ending at 1,093.20 won, down 10.2 won from Thursday's close, as the U.S. spending cuts prompted a flight for safer assets, dealers said.
The local financial markets were closed on Friday for Independence Movement Day. (Yonhap News)