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Seoul shares end 1.82 pct higher on bargain hunting

   South Korean stocks ended 1.82 percent higher Friday as investors hunted for bargains following recent bearish trading, analysts said. The local currency gathered ground against the U.S. dollar.

   The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced 35.92 points to 2,013.14, ending above the 2,000-point level for the first time in three sessions. Trading volume was heavy at 488.9 million shares, worth 5.8 trillion won (US$5.2 billion), with winners far outnumbering losers 637 to 215.

   The sharp market rebound came as investors scrambled to hunt for bargains after the KOSPI had fallen for seven out of the past eight sessions, sliding as low as its lowest level in two months.

   Global consumer inflation worries, particularly grain costs, recently fueled concerns over potential monetary tightening policies and battered world stock markets.

   "After the recent bear run brought the KOSPI below the 2,000-point mark, investors began to consider local shares underpriced and went on a buying spree," said Park So-yeon, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.

   "While the inflationary jitters show no signs of ending, foreign and institutional investors' net buying helped drive up the local market," she said.

   The powerful market advance was led by shipbuilders, buoyed by hopes of growth of their shipmaking orders. The world's second-largest shipbuilder, Samsung Heavy Industries, jumped 6.33 percent to 35,250 won, with smaller rival Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering gaining 5.72 percent to 34,200 won on news that it has won a $2 billion order from A.P. Moller-Maersk, a Danish shipper, to build 10 container ships.

   Construction companies also closed higher, rebounding from continued falls in recent sessions. Mainstream builder Hyundai Engineering & Construction surged 4.27 percent to 80,500 won, curbing an eight-session losing run. Samsung C&T spiked 6.72 percent to settle at 69,900 won.

   Friday's market turnaround also boosted brokerage houses, with second-largest securities firm Samsung Securities soaring 4.56 percent to 82,500 won.

   Doosan Engine, a marine engine maker, advanced by the daily limit of 14.94 percent to 18,850 won on bargain hunting that followed four days of sharp losses.

   Korea Line, the second-largest local bulk carrier, plunged by the daily limit of 14.79 percent to 15,550 won after a court earlier in the week accepted the shipper's application for court receivership due to liquidity shortages. The shipper had dropped by the daily limit of 15 percent in the two previous sessions.

   The South Korean won ended at 1,112.1 won to the U.S. dollar, up 5.3 won from Thursday's close, led by a net inflow of foreign stock funds, dealers said.

  (Yonhap News)

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