South Korean shares ended lower on Friday, adding to the losses of the previous session, as investors remained concerned about the fiscal cliff in the United States.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 10 points, or 0.52 percent, to close at 1,904.41. Trading volume stood at 628.75 million shares worth 4.75 trillion won (4.37 billion U.S. dollars).
The KOSPI started lower, and fell below the 1,900 points to trade at 1,879.06 earlier in the trading due to re-emerging worries about the U.S. fiscal cliff.
Following President Obama's re-election, market attention was focused on how U.S. Congress will address the looming fiscal cliff that threatens to throw the world's No.1 economy back into recession if left untouched.
If no deal is reached between Republicans and Democrats over some 600-billion U.S. dollars in spending cuts and tax increases scheduled to take effect in January, it could derail the U.S. economic recovery and lead to a recession.
The KOSPI, however, trimmed its earlier losses to manage to end above the 1,900 points after Bank of Korea (BOK) froze its benchmark interest at 2.75 percent at the November rate-setting meeting.
BOK governor Kim Choong-soo said at a news conference after the meeting that U.S. lawmakers were not expected to reach an agreement over the fiscal cliff issue to the last minute of the deadline, but the governor assessed the current economic conditions in a more positive manner than a month before.
Kim noted that the domestic economic conditions will unlikely worsen further, saying that some economic data related to consumption and investment showed signs of recovery. The governor hinted that the central bank will not change the policy rate unless the economic conditions worsen further.
Foreigners led the market decline by offloading a net 267 billion won worth of local stocks. Retail and institutional investors bought shares worth 185.4 billion won and 65.5 billion won respectively, limiting the KOSPI's further decline.
Auto shares lost ground on news that Hyundai Motor faced class action suits worth 800 billion won in the United States due to the overstated fuel efficiency of around 900,000 cars sold there. Top automaker Hyundai Motor rebounded 0.5 percent to 214,000 won due to bargain hunting demand, but its affiliate Kia Motors retreated 1.6 percent to 56,600 won. The nation's biggest auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis tumbled 2.7 percent to 266,000 won.
Among large-cap shares, decliners outnumbered gainers. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics fell 0.7 percent to 1,341,000 won, and memory chip giant SK Hynix declined 2.5 percent to 25,400 won. The nation's No.1 steelmaker POSCO slid 1.5 percent to 326,500 won, but top life insurer Samsung Life Insurance edged up 0.2 percent to 92,300 won.
The local currency finished at 1,087.6 won against the greenback, up 1.7 won from Thursday's close.
Bond prices ended lower. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes added 0.03 percentage point to 2.79 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds rose 0.03 percentage point to 2.86 percent.