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Seoul shares plunge on Egyptian unrest

  South Korean stocks ended 1.81 percent lower on Monday as foreigners dumped shares amid growing concerns over political protests in Cairo, analysts said. The local currency lost ground against the U.S. dollar.

   The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) plunged 38.14 points to 2,069.73. Trading volume was moderate at 316.9 million shares worth 7.29 trillion won ($6.5 billion), with losers far outnumbering gainers 607 to 219.

   "Egyptian woes were mirrored in hefty foreign selling," said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities Co. "Foreigners sold both futures and spots, which implies that the issue is likely to linger. It will take some time for foreigners to shift to net buyers."

   Foreigners sold a net 697.1 billion won, the largest daily sale after a record 1.3 trillion won sell-off on Nov. 11, 2010.

   Shares lost ground across the board with market heavyweight Samsung Electronics losing 2.87 percent to 981,000 won and Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipyard, slipping 2.61 percent to 485,000 won.

   "Construction companies and automakers were hit hardest by the Egyptian crisis," said Lee.

   Builders finished bearish due mainly to concerns that the uprising in Egypt may hinder the robust project market in the Middle East. GS Engineering & Construction Corp., the country's No.3 builder, fell 7.03 percent to 119,000 won.  

   Autos weighed on fears that a potential surge in crude oil prices may cast shadows on global auto demand. Industry leader Hyundai Motor slumped 4.79 percent to 179,000 won and its auto parts affiliate Hyundai Mobis tumbled 6.34 percent to 258,500 won.

   Chemicals, however, outperformed the market on prospects of a surge in global oil prices. SK Innovation, the country's largest oil refiner, gained 2.76 percent to 204,500 won and LG Chem, the country's largest chemical company, rose 2.94 percent to 420,000 won.

   The local currency closed at 1,121.5 won to the greenback, down 7.7 won from Friday's close, as investors scurried to snap up safer assets amid escalating tension in the Middle Eastern country.

(Yonhap News)