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Seoul stocks dip to yearly low amid new COVID-19 variant scare

Stock market in South Korea (Yonhap)
Stock market in South Korea (Yonhap)
South Korean stocks tumbled to a 52-week low Tuesday as concerns over the potential impact of the omicron coronavirus variant continued to weigh on investor sentiment. The Korean won rose against the US dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) plummeted 70.31 points, or 2.42 percent, to close at 2,839.01 points.

Trading volume was high at about 968 million shares worth some 19.2 trillion won ($16.2 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 874 to 48.

Foreigners sold a net 143 billion won, and institutions offloaded 635 billion won, while retail investors bought 742 billion won.

The KOSPI opened higher as investors tried to buy oversold stocks following the global market's rebound Monday.

But the key stock index swung to losses and increasingly lost ground on foreign and institutional sell-offs.

South Korea reported 3,032 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, with the new variant not being detected yet.

"Hong Kong strengthened its lockdown of borders, and the local virus toll remains high, dragging down stock prices," said Mirae Asset Securities analyst Seo Sang-young.

Investor sentiment also worsened over U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Powell's speech, which signaled a faster timeline for tapering the stimulus policies, he added.

Most large caps closed lower in Seoul.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics decreased 1.38 percent to 71,300 won, No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix lost 1.72 percent to 114,000 won, and internet portal operator Naver retreated 1.42 percent to 381,000 won.

Pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics added 0.57 percent to 889,000 won, but Celltrion declined 2.59 percent to 207,000 won.

Leading carmaker Hyundai Motor went down 2.49 percent to 195,500 won, and banking top cap Kakao Bank slumped 6.69 percent to 65,600 won.

The local currency closed at 1,187.9 won against the US dollar, up 5.1 won from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)

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