South Korean stocks closed higher Wednesday as investor sentiment rose on the back of improved retail data from the United States, analysts said. The Korean won closed lower against the greenback.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index gained 7.21 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,953.28. Trading volume was low at 247.3 million shares worth 3.77 trillion won ($3.54 billion) with gainers outpacing losers 508 to 297.
Analysts said Seoul shares closed higher on the back of the improved U.S. retail data, which cast a brighter outlook for the recovery of the world’s largest economy down the road.
U.S. retail sales advanced 0.2 percent on-month in December, hovering above the market estimate of 0.1 percent, its commerce department said.
“Investors, however, are also taking a wait-and-see approach, as concerns over tapering by the Federal Reserve as well as fourth-quarter earnings of listed firms will continue for the time being,” said Park Sung-hoon, a researcher at Woori Investment & Securities Co.
The Fed, which has operated an $85 billion monthly bond-buying program to boost the U.S. economy by keeping interest rates low, announced last month that it would begin reducing bond purchases by $10 billion per month starting in January, citing signs of an economic recovery.
With the Federal Open Market Committee meeting slated for Jan. 28-29, market watchers are focusing on whether the central bank will announce additional tapering.
Foreigners and institutions sold 36.4 billion won and 25 billion worth of Seoul shares on the main bourse, respectively. Individual investors, in contrast, scooped up a net 49.4 billion won.
SK Hynix fell 4.56 percent to 36,650 won as investors sought profit-taking from its steep rise in previous trading sessions.
Other tech firms also lost ground, with market behemoth Samsung Electronics closing 1.07 percent lower at 1,299,000 won.
Carmakers closed bearish, with No. 1 Hyundai Motor falling 0.43 percent to 231,000 won, while its auto parts affiliate Hyundai Mobis closed unchanged from the previous session at 280,000 won. Kia Motors edged down 0.58 percent to 51,800 won.
Shipbuilders closed mixed, with Hyundai Heavy Industries advancing 1.52 percent to 234,500 won while Samsung Heavy Industries lost 0.29 percent to 34,750 won. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine increased 3.95 percent to 36,800 won.
The local currency ended at 1,062.70 won to the U.S. dollar, down 3.60 won from Tuesday’s close. (Yonhap News)