South Korean stocks closed lower Monday as investors remained skeptical of a much-coveted global economic recovery amid a resurgence in the new coronavirus. The Korean won rose to an over 19-month high against the US dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 16.90 points, or 0.72 percent, to close at 2,343.91.
Trading volume was moderate at 803 million shares worth 11.29 trillion won ($10 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 759 to 119.
Foreigners offloaded a net 118.8 billion won, and retail investors sold a net 110.7 billion won. Institutions picked up a net 244.7 billion won.
Stocks got off to a firm start on lingering hopes for progress in fresh stimulus talks in the United States.
But investor sentiment worsened as the country's new coronavirus cases shot up to 119, sharply up from 61 cases reported a day earlier.
A recent global spike in the number of COVID-19 infections has dashed hopes for an earlier-than-expected economic recovery.
"The number of daily new COVID-19 cases in the United States has reached over 80,000, and the growing number of new infections in Europe has heightened the possibility of economic lockdowns and will likely expand market volatility," Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young said.
Over the weekend, Spain imposed an overnight curfew, while Italy decided to shut down public locations, including cinemas, to stem the spread of the virus.
In Seoul, most large caps closed lower.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics added 0.33 percent to 60,400 won, following the death of its chairman a day earlier, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix fell 0.83 percent to 83,200 won.
Internet portal giant Naver lost 1.75 percent to 281,500 won, with its rival Kakao tumbling 3.09 percent to 329,500 won.
Leading chemical maker LG Chem dropped 0.62 percent to 646,000 won, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI shed 1.65 percent to 417,500 won.
Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics sank 0.94 percent to 630,000 won, while Celltrion remained unchanged at 238,000 won.
The country's largest automaker Hyundai Motor jumped 2.69 percent to 171,500 won. The company said it shifted to a loss in the third quarter from a year earlier on hefty provisions for recalls.
The local currency closed at 1,127.7 won to the US dollar, up 5.2 won from the previous session and marking the highest closing since March 5, 2019.
Analysts said the Korean currency gained ground on expectations that the won's advance will likely continue amid the US dollar's weakness.
The greenback has been weakening against major currencies since the US Federal Reserve said in September that it will keep interest rates near zero until inflation is on track to surpass its 2 percent target for some time.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed mixed. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 0.2 basis point to 0.908 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond rose 0.1 basis point to 1.192 percent. (Yonhap)