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Seoul stocks up on risk-off sentiment

South Korean stocks finished higher on Monday, as investors' concerns over a French presidential election race abated to some degree, analysts said. The Korean won rose against the US dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 8.7 points, or 0.4 percent, to close at 2,173.74. Trade volume was moderate at 367 million shares worth 4.2 trillion won ($3.72 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 509 to 287.

The local stock market opened a tad higher on news that centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right populist Marine Le Pen advanced Sunday to a runoff in France's presidential election, with a showdown over its participation in the European Union looming in May.


Opinion polls showed that Macron may win the final race against Le Pen.

The market has been concerned that the May 7 victory of Le Pen, a nationalist anti-EU and anti-immigration politician, would undermine France's stay in the world's largest single economic bloc.

"The results (of the French presidential race) were not the worst scenario," said Seo Sang-young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities. "Eased market concerns helped the local stock market rebound."

The analyst said upbeat corporate earnings will also help the local stock market move up down the road.

Samsung Electronics, the country's top market cap, advanced 1.18 percent to end at 2,062,000 won, on the back of rosy outlook for the sales of its latest high-end smartphone, the Galaxy S8.

SK hynix, a major chipmaker, rose 0.77 percent to finish at 52,400 won.

POSCO, the top steelmaker, gained 1.48 percent to end at 274,000 won.

Banking stocks also remained in positive terrain. Shinhan Financial, the country's most profitable banking group, climbed 2.41 percent to end at 48,800 won, and KB Financial gained 1.19 percent to end at 51,200 won.

In contrast, Hyundai Motor, the country's top automaker, remained unchanged at 141,500 won.

AmorePacific, the country's top cosmetics makers, slumped 3.31 percent to end at 307,000 won after reporting weaker than expected first-quarter earnings.

The local currency closed at 1,129.90 won against the US dollar, up 4.5 won from the previous session's close. 

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 1.7 basis points to 1.701 percent, while the return on the benchmark five-year government bond gained 2.9 basis points at 1.882 percent. (Yonhap)

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