SEOUL, Nov. 19 (Yonhap) — South Korean stocks continued to build up gains Thursday after hitting a nearly three-year high the previous session, as battery makers remained in positive terrain amid concerns of surging COVID-19 cases. The Korean won sharply fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 1.78 points, or 0.07 percent, to close at 2,547.42, the highest since Feb. 1, 2018.

Trading volume was moderate at about 961 million shares worth some 12.3 trillion won (US$11 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 533 to 298.

Foreigners purchased a net 104 billion won, extending their buying streak to an 11th session, while institutions offloaded a net 302 billion won. Retail investors bought a net 204 billion won.

The mild gains came after hitting a 33-month high in the previous session. Investor wariness increased over valuation pressure and rising coronavirus cases.

The number of daily new coronavirus cases in South Korea exceeded 300 for the second consecutive day Thursday, with authorities warning of another potential wave of the pandemic.

“Foreign investors who have led the recent KOSPI rally are increasingly putting on the wait-and-see mode,” Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young said.

“They bought bulks of secondary battery makers today, while institutions dumped large caps,” he added.

In Seoul, most large caps closed mixed.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 0.31 percent to 64,600 won, but No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix gained 0.2 percent to 98,200 won.

Leading chemical maker LG Chem rose 1.69 percent to 721,000 won, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI jumped 3.39 percent to 518,000 won.

Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics shed 0.49 percent to 808,000 won, while Celltrion advanced 1.03 percent to 305,000 won.

Internet portal giant Naver slipped 0.18 percent to 280,500 won, and its rival Kakao closed flat at 365,500 won.

Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, moved up 0.28 percent to 180,000 won, while top steelmaker POSCO shed 1.05 percent to 236,000 won.

The local currency closed at 1,115.6 won per dollar, down 11.8 won from the previous session’s close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 0.6 basis point to 0.955 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond added 1.2 basis points to 1.292 percent.

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