The South Korean benchmark stock index finished above the 2,200-level for the first time in nearly five months on Wednesday, largely on hopes for a coronavirus vaccine and economic recovery. The Korean won rose against the US dollar.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 18.27 points, or 0.84 percent, to close at 2,201.88. The index surpassed 2,200 for the first time since 2,210.34 on Feb. 19.
Trading volume was high at about 811 million shares worth some 13.4 trillion won ($11.2 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 547 to 291.
Foreigners bought a net 268 billion won, extending buying streak to a third session, while retail investors sold a net 601 billion won. Institutions purchased a net 337 billion won.
"Positive news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine development raised optimism for economic rebound, boosting the local stock markets," said Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young.
The KOSPI made bullish run, following new reports that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by US biopharmaceutical firm Moderna Inc. showed progress. The vaccine produced antibodies in all patients during an initial safety trial, according to the reports, leading to an overnight rally on Wall Street.
The KOSPI, however, erased some of its earlier gains amid rising political tensions between the United States and China -- South Korea's two largest trading partners.
US President Donald Trump ordered the termination of Hong Kong's special status in protest of a new Chinese security law that can severely restrict civil rights in Hong Kong. He also signed legislation on sanctioning Chinese officials.
Most large caps closed higher in Seoul.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gained 1.67 percent to 54,700 won, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix edged up 0.12 percent to 83,000 won.
Leading pharmaceutical firm Samsung BioLogics added 1.9 percent to 749,000 won, but Celltrion dipped 2.47 percent to 316,000 won.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor spiked 7.39 percent to 109,000 won, thanks to the government's recent blueprint to foster green-energy mobility. Hyundai's smaller affiliate Kia Motors jumped 3.53 percent to 35,200 won.
The local currency closed at 1,200.5 won per dollar, up 5.2 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys lost 0.7 basis point to 0.847 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond slipped 0.1 basis point to 1.148 percent. (Yonhap)