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Won fades to 14-month low against dollar amid inflation concerns

Samsung shares tumble below 70,000 won for first time in 2021 on strong foreign selling

Electronic signs at Hana Bank in Seoul show the benchmark Kospi fell 1.35 percent to 2,916.38 points at the closing bell, while the value of local currency against the US greenback lost to 1,198.8 won per dollar Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Electronic signs at Hana Bank in Seoul show the benchmark Kospi fell 1.35 percent to 2,916.38 points at the closing bell, while the value of local currency against the US greenback lost to 1,198.8 won per dollar Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Signs of a weakening Korean won are growing, as investors flock to safe haven assets amid escalating inflation concerns. The won declined to a 14-month low at the closing, hovering around the level of 1,200 won per dollar on Tuesday.

The local currency traded at 1,198.8 won per dollar, weakening 4.2 won per dollar, or 0.35 percent, from the previous session’s close. It set a new record after the closing of July 24 last year with 1,201.5 won per dollar.

The Korean won once depreciated to 1,200.4 won per dollar in the morning trade, marking the first time since July 28 last year that the won-dollar rate breached the 1,200 won per dollar. At that time, the local currency declined to as low as 1,201 won per dollar during trading.

Market watchers attributed the weakening won to growing inflationary pressures coupled with soaring oil prices and investors’ preference for low-risk assets.

Overnight, the US crude benchmark West Texas Intermediate jumped 3.5 percent to more than $82 per barrel, its highest level since 2014. Brent crude, the main international benchmark, also topped $84.6 per barrel.

“The Korean won will likely to move around 1,200 won per dollar, if the inflation fear maintains for a while in line with oil price hikes,” said Lee Young-hwa, an analyst at Shinhan Bank. “Amid a key rate freeze decision and continuous capital outflows from emerging markets, the (won-dollar) rate further jumped.”

The weakening won weighed on Seoul shares as well, despite a rate freeze by the central bank, experts said. The Bank of Korea held its policy rate at 0.75 percent for October.

The benchmark Kospi had lost 39.92 points, or 1.35 percent, to close at 2,916.38 points. The index got off to a weak start at 2,950.22 points and retreated further on sell-offs by foreign investors and institutions.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics plunged below the 70,000 won ($58.3) on strong foreign selling. The shares closed at 69,000 won, down 2,500 won, or 3.5 percent, from the previous session’s close. The stock fell below 70,000 won for the first time this year, although it saw a downward trend after hitting 96,800 won per share during trading on Jan. 11. The last time when the shares closed below 70,000 won was Dec. 3 last year.

Foreign investors turned net sellers and offloaded a net 763.3 billion won of Samsung shares, while institutional investors dumped a net 98 billion won. Meanwhile, retail investors purchased a net 843 billion won worth of the tech giant‘s shares.

Other large-cap stocks slumped across the board, with No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix declining 2.66 percent. Information technology behemoth Naver retreated 4.25 percent, while leading battery maker Samsung SDI and pharmaceutical giant Celltrion shed 3.35 percent and 4.24 percent, respectively.

The nation’s tech-heavy index extended its losing streak to a second consecutive session. The Kosdaq index slipped 12.96 points, or 1.36 percent, to close at 940.15 points. Both foreign and institutional investors continued their selling spree for a second day in a row.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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