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Seoul shares inch up on earnings hopes

South Korean stocks edged up on Tuesday, driven by gains in large-cap exporters, as a rosy outlook on their quarterly earnings is raising the specter for better performance in the country's overall exports, analysts said. The local currency fell slightly against the US dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index added 7.65 points or 0.35 percent to finish at 2,163.31. Trading volume was moderate at 386.7 million shares worth 4.94 trillion won ($4.43 billion) with gainers outpacing decliners 525 to 262. 


"Investor sentiment is quickly shifting to quarterly corporate earnings after they saw the US markets fare relatively well despite the withdrawal of the Trump's health care bill," said Kim Sung-hwan, an analyst at Bookook Securities Co. 

"Hopes for another turnaround in exports are one of the factors that will drive up shares for the time being."

Market watchers here are presenting a rosy picture on the first quarterly earnings, with the bottom lines of key exporters gathering ground. The country's outbound shipments jumped 20.2 percent on-year to US$43.2 billion in February, marking the fastest clip in five years and the fourth consecutive month of increase.

Blue-chip exporters ended the session in positive terrain led by tech giant Samsung Electronics which climbed 0.68 percent to 2,074,000 won. Steelmaker POSCO moved up 2.04 percent to 275,500 won.

Shares of chemical firms were bullish, with industry leader LG Chem soaring 3.54 percent to 292,500 won and Lotte Chemical rising 2.86 percent to 360,000 won.

In contrast, auto shares lost ground. Top player Hyundai Motor shed 1.23 percent to 160,000 won, with its smaller affiliate Kia Motors finishing down 0.68 percent to 36,600 won. Naver, the country's top Internet search engine operator, tumbled 3.62 percent to 853,000 won. 

Foreigners bought a net 10.9 billion won worth of local equities. Individuals also scooped up 8.47 billion won, while institutions sold off a net 72.1 billion won. 

The local currency ended at 1,113.00 won against the greenback, down 0.2 won from Monday's close. 

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed marginally lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 0.7 basis point to 1.657 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds added 0.6 basis point to 1.849 percent. (Yonhap)

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