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Seoul shares gain 0.2 pct on U.S. hope

South Korean stocks closed 0.2 percent higher Thursday as investors' sentiment was boosted by the U.S. Federal Reserve chief candidate's remarks suggesting the stimulus tapering will not happen soon, analysts said. The local currency gained against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) added 4 points to close at 1,967.56. Trading volume was moderate at 319 million shares worth 3.7 trillion won ($3.46 billion) with gainers outpacing losers 441 to 367.

Analysts said Seoul shares closed higher as Janet Yellen, the successor to current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, said in a statement that the Fed still has more work to do to fuel the slowly recovering economy.

Investors on Wall Street took her remarks as an indication that the U.S. central bank won't start the stimulus cut in December as widely speculated and bought shares.

"Seoul shares closed higher following the abated concerns over a possible tapering of the U.S. quantitative easing," said Lee Sang-jae, a researcher at Hyundai Securities Co. "Seoul shares are anticipated to gather ground for the time being."

Monetary easing moves by an advanced country usually cause investors to set their sights on riskier emerging markets, while a reduction leads them to relocate their investments.

Overseas investors offloaded a net 66.8 billion won, extending their selling streak for the ninth consecutive session, with individuals also selling a net 85.4 billion won. Institutions, in contrast, scooped up a net 149.3 billion won.

Tech shares closed higher, with market behemoth Samsung Electronics adding 0.35 percent to 1,424,000 won and top chipmaker SK hynix advancing 2.38 percent to 32,300 won. LG Electronics gained 1.08 percent to 65,400 won.

Retailers also traded bullish, with Daewoo International, a major local trading company, rising 1.69 percent to 39,050 won and discount store chain E-Mart adding 3.95 percent to 250,000 won.

Tongyang Securities gained 0.62 percent to reach 2,420 won, on reports the crisis-prone firm may be acquired by a foreign company.

Builders closed lower, with Hyundai Engineering & Construction falling 1.22 percent to 56,600 won and Daewoo Engineering & Construction losing 1.76 percent to 7,830 won. Daelim Industrial shed 1.27 percent to 93,000 won.

Carmakers also lost ground, with No. 1 player Hyundai Motor falling 0.41 percent to 243,000 won and its auto parts affiliate Hyundai Mobis moving down 0.85 percent to 292,000 won. Kia Motors closed unchanged at 60,500 won.

The local currency ended at 1,067.90 won against the greenback, up 4.70 won from Wednesday's close, dealers said. (Yonhap News)