South Korean stocks closed nearly flat on Friday as investors remained cautious amid no fresh leads following a recent rally led by robust corporate earnings, analysts said. The local currency edged down against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 1.66 points, or 0.07 percent to close at 2,288.48. Trading volume was moderate at 415.2 million shares worth 5.78 trillion won ($5.12 billion) with gainers outnumbering decliners 598 to 230.
"As the first-quarter earnings season came to an end, market momentum has faded with offshore investors holding off increasing bets amid the Trump risk," said Park Chun-young, an analyst at Daishin Securities Co.
"The KOSPI is expected to be more prone to any changes in the pattern of overseas investors and external factors next week."
Foreigners bought a net 40.3 billion won, extending their buying streak for four straight sessions. Individual and institutional investors opted to unload their holdings, with a net 66.3 billion won and 26.6 billion won, respectively.
Shares of Hyundai Motor, the country's top automaker, and its affiliates finished higher on expectations for a set of shareholder-friendly policies after local media reported that they will likely embark on a revamp of its complex governance structure.
The automaker jumped 3.03 percent to 170,000 won, with its auto parts-making affiliate Hyundai Mobis spiking 5 percent to 273,000 won.
Hyundai Motor later denied such reports in its response to the financial regulator, saying the company has yet to decide on the plan.
Retailers and cosmetics firms also ended bullish on rising hopes for a thaw in strained Korea-China relations that have wreaked havoc on their businesses after Beijing imposed hostile policies in retribution for Seoul's deployment of a US anti-missile system.
Top cosmetics maker AmorePacific advanced 1.27 percent to 359,500 won, with Lotte Shopping, the retail unit of Lotte Group, rising 1.1 percent to 276,500 won. Hotel Shilla, whose main business includes duty-free shops, also climbed 1.63 percent to 62,400 won.
In contrast, tech giant Samsung Electronics dipped 2.66 percent to 2,236,000 won on a foreign selloff. Chipmaker SK hynix, the second-largest list-firm after Samsung, also fell 2.69 percent to 54,200 won.
The local currency ended at 1,127.20 won against the greenback, down 2.7 won from Thursday's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys slipped 1.2 basis points to 1.671 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds fell 2.5 basis points to 1.875 percent. (Yonhap)