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Seoul stocks hit almost 3-year high on chip rally, vaccine hopes

Electronic signboards at the trading room of Hana Bank in Seoul show the benchmark Kospi closed at 2,543.03 on Monday, up 49.16 points or 1.97 percent from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)
Electronic signboards at the trading room of Hana Bank in Seoul show the benchmark Kospi closed at 2,543.03 on Monday, up 49.16 points or 1.97 percent from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)
South Korean stocks surged to a nearly three-year high Monday despite the spreading coronavirus woes, buoyed by a rally in chipmakers and vaccine hopes that fueled investor appetite for risky assets. The Korean won rose to the highest in nearly two years against the US dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 49.16 points, or 1.97 percent, to close at 2,543.03. The reading marks the highest closing since 2,568.54 points on Feb. 1, 2018.

Trading volume was high at about 1.2 billion shares worth some 18.8 trillion won ($17 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 556 to 275.

The KOSPI remained bullish, largely helped by massive foreign buying.

Foreigners purchased a net 460 billion won, extending their buying streak to an eighth session, while retail investors sold a net 161 billion won. Institutions offloaded a net 276 billion won.

The rally came as South Korea's new coronavirus cases hovered above 200 for a third consecutive day Monday, with US daily cases having hit a record over the weekend.

"Steep gains in chipmakers stoked the KOSPI's gains," said Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young. "Eased uncertainties from the US vote results and anticipation for Pfizer's vaccine against the new coronavirus also improved investor sentiment," he added.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics spiked 4.91 percent to 66,300 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix skyrocketed 9.25 percent to 98,000 won.

Hyundai Motor, the country's largest automaker, advanced 0.85 percent to 179,000 won, and top steelmaker Posco added 1.27 percent to 239,000 won.

Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics edged up 0.13 percent to 758,000 won, while Celltrion retreated 0.52 percent to 288,500 won.

Internet portal giant Naver shed 1.07 percent to 278,000 won, and its rival Kakao declined 0.96 percent to 362,000 won.

Leading chemical maker LG Chem dipped 3.97 percent to 677,000 won, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI dropped 3.09 percent to 485,500 won.

The strong local currency against the US greenback also lifted the local stocks. The Korean won closed at 1,109.3 won per dollar, up 6.3 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 0.5 basis point to 0.970 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond added 0.4 basis point to 1.302 percent. (Yonhap)
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