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Stock rally nears turning point as Kospi market cap tops W2,000tr

Sohn Byung-doo (fourth from left), chairman and chief executive of the Korea Exchange, and others attend a ceremony in Seoul on Monday to mark the 2021 opening of the country’s stock markets in the morning. (The Financial Services Commission)
Sohn Byung-doo (fourth from left), chairman and chief executive of the Korea Exchange, and others attend a ceremony in Seoul on Monday to mark the 2021 opening of the country’s stock markets in the morning. (The Financial Services Commission)
Stock analysts began to look for signs that the current bull market will end its run, as stocks in South Korea got started the year strongly on Monday, setting yet another all-time high on the first trading day of 2021.

The Korea Exchange’s main board, the Kospi, closed at 2,944.45 points on Monday, up 2.5 percent from the previous close. The combined market capitalization of the Kospi’s 916 constituents, including electronics giant Samsung Electronics, exceeded 2,028.3 trillion won ($1.9 trillion), crossing the 2,000 trillion-won mark for the first time. Gainers outnumbered losers, 481 to 385, according to the KRX.

The Kospi held onto its record run for five straight trading days since Dec. 24.

The Kosdaq, a development board of the KRX, gained 1 percent Monday after a turbulent session in the morning.

Analysts maintained a positiveoutlook for the stock market rally on signs of a recovery of global macroeconomic readings and trade in the export-driven nation.

But at the same time, analysts pointed to watershed points in what can be viewed as an overheated market that temporarily ruled out short selling.

Shin Seung-jin, an analyst at Samsung Securities, anticipated a moment when the liquidity-driven rally gives way to one that is earnings-driven.

“Last year, ample liquidity has driven the stock rally at home and abroad,” wrote Shin in a letter Monday. “The liquidity has pushed up the stock price, invoking concerns that the pace of stock rally here is too fast, showing contrast with the pace of recovery in the real economy.”

One question to Korean equity investors is whether the new stimulus package from US President-elect Joe Biden will materialize in the first quarter, thereby extending the weak US dollar -- a favorable setting to foreign investors looking for arbitrage from Korean stock investing -- analysts also said.

A confirmed US stimulus may “justify the fairly-higher valuation of global stocks compared to their price-to-earnings ratios,” said Park Seok-hyun, an analyst of KTB Investment & Securities.

Park also said the additional fiscal stimulus would be a “surprise“ decision, adding that the yearlong Korean won rally against the greenback would be nearing an end with the ongoing stimulus proceeding as planned.

The brokerage house on Monday set the Kospi’s upper-end target for 2021 at 3,120 points, from its previous target of 2,750 points set in October.

The Kospi bourse was yet again driven by an influx from retail investors, who net purchased over 1 trillion won worth of Kospi-listed stocks. In contrast, domestic institutional investors net sold stocks worth 1.2 trillion won.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics jumped 2.5 percent, domestic semiconductor rival SK hynix soared 6.3 percent and LG Chem surged 7.9 percent. Automaker Hyundai Motor climbed 8.1 percent, car part maker Hyundai Mobis gained 12.3 percent and oil refiner SK Innovation shot up 21.6 percent.

The local currency strengthened against the US dollar by 0.4 percent, as the greenback traded at 1,082.1 won as of Monday session’s close, according to Seoul Money Brokerage.

By Son Ji-hyoung (consnow@heraldcorp.com)
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