South Korean stocks closed higher Thursday, led by gains in tech and some defensive shares with the pace of the Korean won's ascent to the U.S. dollar slowing on verbal intervention by foreign exchange authorities, analysts said. The won closed at a near six-year high.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 9.66 points, or 0.48 percent, to 2,008.61. Trading volume was moderate at 219 million shares worth 4.1 trillion won ($3.94 billion), with gainers outpacing losers 492 to 310.
The index opened higher, tracking an overnight advance in the U.S. stock market, and foreigners' massive buying sent up the index, helping it surpass the psychologically important level of the 2,000-point level in more than four months.
Foreigners bought a net 297 billion won worth of local shares.
"The local currency's rise is positive in that it is backed by sound economic fundamentals such as a huge current account surplus and strong growth," said Lim Noh-choong, an analyst at I'M investment & Securities.
Analysts said the recent rally in the Korean won is fueling optimism about the local stock market, as global funds are moving to emerging markets. Foreign investors may pump more money into the country expecting a further rise in the local currency, they said.
The local currency closed at 1,040.15 won to the U.S. dollar, up 1.25 won from Wednesday's close, after rising as high as 1,031.40 won at one point, the highest in almost six years, but its upward move was limited after the country's foreign exchange authorities verbally intervened.
The country's finance ministry said earlier in the day that it was closely watching the financial market warning and that it was not "desirable" to see an excessive one-sided movement in currency exchange rates.
Techs and financial shares advanced, while automakers and steelmakers closed lower.
Samsung Electronics, the world's largest maker of smartphones, rose 0.66 percent to close at 1,380,000 won, and its smaller local rival LG Electronics gained 0.88 percent to end at 68,900 won.
Top mobile operator SK Telecom advanced 1.23 percent to close at 206,500 won, and POSCO, the country's leading steelmaker, also rose 0.16 percent to finish at 312,000 won.
In contrast, Hyundai Motor, the country's top automaker, shed 0.41 percent to close at 242,500 won, and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors lost 1.01 percent to end at 58,600 won. (Yonhap)