South Korean stocks closed lower Thursday on foreign and institutional selling as new coronavirus outbreaks in major global economies continued to surge at an alarming rate. The Korean won fell against the US dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 18.59 points, or 0.79 percent, to close at 2,326.67.
Trading volume was moderate at about 488 million shares worth some 10.1 trillion won ($8.9 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 641 to 221.
The KOSPI started out with a sharp fall, tracking the 3.43 percent plunge on the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday (New York time). The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite tumbled 3.73 percent and the S&P 500 plummeted 3.53 percent amid massive foreign selling.
Foreigners sold a net 536 billion won, the largest sell-off after Aug. 31. Retail investors purchased a net 980 billion won, while institutions offloaded a net 476 billion won.
"The (overnight) stock market crash in the US and Europe largely came from the uncontained outbreaks of COVID-19," said Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young. "It may keep investor sentiment down for a while," he added.
Daily COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US soared in the past week, with heavily populated parts of Europe tightening quarantine measures.
After briefly plummeting below the 2,300-level, the KOSPI erased much of its losses in the afternoon, thanks to the massive advances by pharmaceutical heavyweights.
Most large caps closed lower in Seoul.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics dropped 1.53 percent to 58,100 won. The tech giant reported robust third-quarter earnings shortly before the session's open.
No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix lost 1.45 percent to 81,700 won.
Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics skyrocketed 9.42 percent to 697,000 won after it announced it opened a new research and development center in the US, and Celltrion spiked 4.33 percent to 253,000 won.
Internet portal giant Naver closed flat at 298,500 won, with its rival Kakao dipping 1.01 percent to 343,000 won.
Leading chemical maker LG Chem gained 1.4 percent to 651,000 won, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI edged up 0.35 percent to 431,500 won.
Hyundai Motor, the country's largest automaker, fell 2.02 percent to 170,000 won.
The local currency closed at 1,131.4 won per dollar, down 0.8 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 1.3 basis points to 0.927 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond added 1.6 basis points to 1.218 percent. (Yonhap)