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Seoul shares almost flat amid U.S. policy woes

South Korean stocks inched down Monday as investors stayed on the sidelines on concerns the U.S. is about to start unwinding its stimulus package next month, analysts said. The local currency fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) slid 2.47 points, or 0.13 percent, to close at 1,917.64. Trading volume was moderate at 296.7 million shares worth 3.28 trillion won (US$2.94 billion) with decliners outpacing gainers 417 to 367.

"The fact that we're going to see a tapering of liquidity in the U.S. is weighing down investor sentiment ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee's minute release," said Lee Jae-man, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities Co.

Investors are awaiting the July minutes of the Federal Reserve's monetary meeting, which will be released on Thursday, U.S. time. The transcript will likely shed more light on the timing and size of the Fed's tapering of its bond purchases.

A net selling worth 169.3 billion won by institutional investors drove down the KOSPI, sending blue chips lower. Top market cap Samsung Electronics fell 0.69 percent to 1,286,000 won and industry leader Hyundai Motor lost 0.85 percent to 234,500 won.

Shipping lines were bearish following media reports pointing out their worsening financial health with a high risk of default.

Hyundai Merchant Marine plunged 7.91 percent to 22,700 won, with major bulk carrier STX Pan Ocean tumbling 11.37 percent to 1,910 won.

Food makers also lost ground, with leading confectionery maker Orion declining 2.83 percent to 928,000 won.

The local currency ended at 1,115.60 won against the greenback, down 2.0 won from Friday's close largely due to the KOSPI's fall, dealers said. (Yonhap News)

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