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Seoul shares end flat before U.S. rate decision, earnings reports

South Korean stocks closed effectively flat on Monday as investors waited for this week's U.S. interest rate decision and corporate earnings, analysts said. The local currency dipped against the U.S. dollar.

   The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) gave up 2.02 points, or 0.10 percent, to close at 1,972.63. Trading volume was moderate at 578 million shares worth 3.52 trillion won ($3.08 billion), with losers outpacing gainers 510 to 314.

   "There was no real upward or downside momentum," said Kang Hyun-gie, a strategist at Solomon Investment & Securities, adding the U.S. Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting that will decide the direction of the country's monetary policy, could provide an impetus for the local bourse.

   Others said the FOMC meeting and the U.S. economic growth report for the first quarter will influence stock prices as well as corporate earnings for companies like Apple Inc. The world's largest economy is predicted to have grown 2.5 percent in the January-March period.

   Shares fell across the board, with steel and machinery pulling off modest gains.

   Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 0.23 percent to close at 1,279,000 won, with top automaker Hyundai Motor falling 1.57 percent to 250,000 won.

   Shares of Hyundai's affiliate Kia Motors were down 1.63 percent at 78,600 won, with LG Chem, a leading manufacturer of rechargeable batteries, giving up 0.79 percent to 313,000 won.

   Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world's largest shipmaker, lost 0.16 percent to 311,500 won, with Hyundai Engineering & Construction losing 2.29 percent to 72,500 won.

   POSCO, the country's No. 1 steelmaker, however, gained 1.59 percent to 384,500 won with Hyundai Steel also gaining 2.00 percent to 102,000 won. Hyundai Mobis moved up 0.54 percent to 279,000 won.

   The local currency finished at 1,139.5 won to the greenback, down 0.1 won from Friday's close, dealers said.

   Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasuries gained 0.01 percentage point to 3.44 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds moved up 0.01 percentage point to 3.60 percent.

(Yonhap News)