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Seoul shares end lower on rate hike, China woes

An electronic board showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) at a dealing room of the Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul last Monday. (Yonhap)
An electronic board showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) at a dealing room of the Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul last Monday. (Yonhap)

South Korean stocks ended lower Monday, as investors were worried about the US central bank's aggressive monetary tightening and China's growth momentum amid high inflation and the protracted COVID-19 pandemic. The Korean won fell against the US dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) lost 7.29 points, or 0.27 percent, to close at 2,693.10 points.

Trading volume was moderate at around 730.81 million shares worth some 8.71 trillion won ($7.06 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 438 to 399.

Foreigners sold stocks worth 135.4 billion won, while retail and institutional investors picked up shares worth 125.4 billion won and 2.9 billion won, respectively.

Investors have been wary of the Federal Reserve's warnings of faster-than-expected belt-tightening to curb inflation, which have stoked fears of slowing global economic growth.

High inflation in China is also another source of concern.

Earlier in the day, China said its producer price index surged 8.3 percent on-year in March and the consumer price index grew 1.5 percent, both higher than expected.

The high prices came amid the lockdown in Shanghai for more than two weeks over soaring virus cases. The antivirus curbs have been feared to further disrupt global supply chains, and affect the Chinese and the global economy.

"Uncertainties over inflation have continued both in the US and Chinese markets. Investors appear to have taken a cautious stance also ahead of the Bank of Korea's rate-setting meeting this week and the full-fledged corporate earning season," NH Investment & Securities analyst Kim Young-hwan said.

In Seoul, tech, battery and bio shares lost ground to drag down the index.

Key battery maker LG Energy Solution sank 3.30 percent to 425,000 won, and Samsung SDI fell 2.66 percent to 585,000 won.

Major chipmaker SK hynix lost 0.45 percent to 111,500 won, and LG Chem tumbled 2.86 percent to 510,000 won.

Bio shares lost ground, with Samsung Biologics going down 0.99 percent to 801,000 won and Celltrion falling 1.22 percent to 162,000 won.

But market bellwether Samsung Electronics inched up 0.15 percent to 67,900 won after a four-day losing streak. LG Electronics advanced 2.46 percent to 125,000 won on an upbeat first-quarter earnings forecast.

Financials and insurers gathered ground on expectations for high interest rates.

KB Financial Group surged 2.41 percent 59,600 won, and Samsung Life advanced 1.86 percent to 65,700 won.

Auto shares also grew on bargain hunting. Top automaker Hyundai Motor rose 1.70 percent to 179,500 won, and its affiliate Kia spiked 3.47 percent to 77,500 won.

The local currency closed at 1,233.1 won against the US dollar, down 8.2 won from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)

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