SEOUL, Nov. 17 (Yonhap) — South Korean shares snapped their two-day gains Tuesday after hitting a nearly three-year high the previous session, as valuation pressure offset optimism over Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine. The Korean won rose against the U.S. dollar.

After choppy trading, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 3.88 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 2,539.15.

Trading volume was high at about 1.2 billion shares worth around 17.5 trillion won (US$15.8 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 524 to 318.

Foreigners purchased a net 359 billion won, extending their buying streak to a ninth session. Retail investors bought a net 152 billion won, while institutions offloaded a net 513 billion won.

“Yesterday’s rally seems to have increased investors’ desire for profit-taking,” Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young said.

Valuation pressure and the unrelenting coronavirus toll increased investor caution, while strong test results from Moderna’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine pegged the KOSPI’s further loss.

Auto and battery-related stocks outperformed on massive foreign buying, while tech gains slowed.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics retreated 0.9 percent to 65,700 won, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix edged up 0.1 percent to 98,100 won.

Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics gained 2.11 percent to 774,000 won, but Celltrion shed 0.87 percent to 305,000 won.

Internet portal giant Naver sank 4.26 percent to 314,500 won, with its rival Kakao dipping 2.49 percent to 286,000 won.

Leading chemical maker LG Chem rose 1.33 percent to 686,000 won, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI gained 1.65 percent to 493,500 won.

Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest automaker, moved up 1.96 percent to 182,500 won, while top steelmaker POSCO slipped 0.21 percent to 238,500 won.

Korean Air Lines sank 8.91 percent to 24,550 won after its announcement to take over smaller rival Asiana Airlines. Hanjin KAL Corp., the parent company of Korean Air, tumbled 8.88 percent to 74,900 won. Asiana Airlines jumped 4.13 percent to 5,800 won.

The local currency closed at 1,106.6 won per dollar, up 2.7 won from the previous session’s close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys lost 1 basis point to 0.960 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond slipped 0.5 basis point to 1.297 percent.

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