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Seoul stocks soar to near 2-year high on massive foreign buying

South Korean stocks reached almost two-year highs on Tuesday as foreign investors continued to scoop up local stocks, extending their buying binge to a seventh consecutive day following eased political chaos in Asia's fourth-largest economy and sound economic data. The Korean won fell against the US dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index advanced 16.19 points, or 0.76 percent, to close at 2,133.79. Trade volume was moderate at 362 million shares worth 5.22 trillion won ($4.54 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 462 to 316.

Tuesday's closing marks the highest since May, 26, 2015, when the comparable figure was 2,143.50 points.

The local stock market opened higher as market uncertainties eased after the Constitutional Court ruled last week to oust the now former President Park Geun-hye.

Park was impeached by parliament on Dec. 9 on allegations she let a close friend meddle in state affairs, colluding with her to extort money from conglomerates and others.

Firm export data, coupled with sound economic reports from the US, helped maintain an upward trend on the local stock market, analysts said.

"Investors may remain cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve's meeting, investors may opt to buy stocks on robust export data," said Kim Byong-yon, an analyst at NH Investment & Securities.

South Korea's exports jumped 19.3 percent on-year to $14.28 billion in the first 10 days of the month, earlier data showed.

Investors may keep close tabs on the Fed's two-day meeting, which starts later in the day, with many expecting the US central bank to raise interest rates.

Most market heavyweights closed higher with banking and tech stocks leading the market gain.

Foreign investors snatched up a net 401 billion won worth of local stocks, extending their buying streak to a seventh day, while institutional investors offloaded a net 400 billion won.

Samsung Electronics and other affiliates soared on news that the nation's largest business group remains firm in pushing for a plan to transition to a holding company structure, regardless of the leadership vacuum caused by the detention of its de facto chief, Lee Jae-yong.

Top cap Samsung Electronics gained 1.87 percent to a record high of 2,068,000 won, and Samsung C&T, the de facto holding firm of Samsung, jumped 9.09 percent to end at 132,000 won.

Samsung Life Insurance, the group's non-life insurer, also advanced 4.59 percent to end at 114,000 won.

LG Electronics, a major home appliance maker, was 2.76 percent higher at 67,100 won on hopes that its latest high-end smartphone, the G6, will sell more than expected.

SK Telecom, the No. 1 mobile carrier, advanced 0.2 percent to end at 245,500 won.

Banking stocks also continued to build up gains. KB Financial advanced 1.78 percent to end at 51,600 won, while Shinhan Financial gained 1.33 percent to end at 49,700 won.

Hyundai Motor, the country's leading automaker, spiked 2.05 percent at 149,000 won.

In contrast, SK hynix, a major chipmaker, shed 1.37 percent to 50,300 won, and POSCO, the top steelmaker, fell 0.36 percent to end at 280,000 won.

The local currency closed at 1,148.80 won against the US dollar, down 4.40 won from the previous session's close. 

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys shed 0.7 basis point to 1.758 percent, while the return on benchmark five-year government bonds fell 0.2 basis point to 1.990 percent.(Yonhap)