Korean stocks finished 0.47 percent higher on Monday, led by financial companies, as upbeat U.S. data boosted investor sentiment amid subdued trading after a national holiday, analysts said. The local currency climbed against the U.S. dollar.
After rising more than 1.7 percent at one point, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed at 2,081.74, up 9.71 points from the previous session. Trading volume was thin at 282 million shares worth 6.52 trillion won ($5.85 billion) with gainers outnumbering losers 501 to 326.
“Improved economic data from the United States and signs of stabilization in Egypt helped fuel the market’s early rallies,” said Lee Jae-man, an analyst at Tongyang Securities Co.
The KOSPI started brisk in the morning after a U.S. government report showed on Friday that the country’s unemployment rate fell in January.
“But the key index gave up some of the earlier gains as foreign investors reduced buying during the afternoon trading,” he added.
Foreign investors added a net 3.9 billion won worth of local shares during the day.
Insurance companies, banks and other financial companies led the market’s advance on expectations that concerns about inflation and rising consumer prices would pressure the central bank to hike key interest rates for two straight months. The central bank is holding a monthly rate-setting meeting on Thursday.
KB Financial Group, the parent of top lender Kookmin Bank, climbed 1.03 percent to 58,800 won and Hana Financial Group jumped 3.41 percent to 47,000 won.
Brokerages also rose after the chairman of the Financial Services Commission (FSC) said Sunday that the country’s top financial regulator is seeking to deregulate the financial market.
Woori Investment & Securities spiked 6.31 percent to 22,750 won.
Commodity producers gained ground amid rising raw materials prices. Top steel maker POSCO gained 2.39 percent to 472,000 won and the world’s No. 2 zinc smelter, Korea Zinc, surged 4.36 percent to 311,500 won.
The local currency closed at 1,107.5 won to the greenback, up 9.4 won from Tuesday’s close, as investors shunned safe assets on revived appetite for risks, dealers said. The financial market was closed Wednesday through Friday for the Lunar New Year holiday.