SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) — South Korean stocks rose slightly to reach a record high Friday, buoyed by optimism over U.S. stimulus talks despite a spike in local COVID-19 cases. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 1.75 points, or 0.06 percent, to close at 2,772.18.
Trading volume was high at about 1.05 billion shares worth some 18.9 trillion won (US$17.2 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 491 to 342.
Foreigners sold a net 192.4 billion won, while institutions offloaded a net 152.1 billion won. Retail investors picked up a net 390.4 billion won.
The benchmark index rebounded from the previous session’s fall tracking overnight gains on Wall Street as U.S. lawmakers continued negotiations to clinch a deal for a new stimulus package.
“Major indices in the United States all rose to reach record highs after reports of stimulus talks being close to an agreement,” Eugene Investment & Securities analyst Huh Jae-hwan said. “Gains were, however, limited on the possibility that the talks may continue into the weekend.”
Investor sentiment was also boosted after Moderna said its COVID-19 vaccine received recommendation for emergency use by an expert panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in South Korea, however, limited the index’s gains.
While authorities have stopped short of adopting the strongest social distancing measures, which would place the country in a quasi-lockdown, the country reported over 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row.
Most large caps in Seoul ended lower.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics shed 0.41 percent to 73,000 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix declined 0.84 percent to 118,500 won.
Leading chemical firm LG Chem retreated 1.93 percent to 814,000 won, while rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI edged up 0.18 percent to 568,000 won.
Internet portal giant Naver slipped 0.88 percent to 282,500 won, with rival Kakao declining 0.54 percent to 367,000 won.
Hyundai Motor, the country’s largest carmaker, fell 0.79 percent to 189,000 won.
Pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics inched down 0.25 percent to 802,000 won, while Celltrion added 1.28 percent to 356,000 won.
The local currency closed at 1,099.7 won against the U.S. dollar, down 6.4 won from the previous session’s close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 3.6 basis points to 0.963 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond lost 2.2 basis points to 1.345 percent.