South Korean shares ended 1.59 percent lower on Wednesday, falling for two days in a row, after investors sold more shares than bought them amid lingering concerns over Europe's debt crisis, analysts here said.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) dropped 30.05 points, or 1.59 percent, to close at 1,856.07. Trading volume stood at 402 million shares worth 5.58 trillion won (4.91 billion U.S. dollars).
The KOSPI started 0.64 percent higher, and rose above 1,910 points at one time during the morning session as investors snapped up stocks on Wall Street gains overnight. Market sentiment was boosted by positive economic data in the United States and news that Italy's prime minister designate Mario Monti planned to meet Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to explain the policy direction of his new government.
The key index, however, turned into negative terrain on unabated concerns that the European fiscal crisis may spread into Italy after the yield on the Italy's 10-year government bonds rose above the 7 percent threshold at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal sought bailout funds.
Various rumors emerged among market players, reflecting still fragile investors' sentiment, equity analysts said."Rumors such as Israel's missile attack against Iran and the downgrade of France's sovereign credit rating rattled the stock market, but the rumors were proved to be groundless," Jeong Seung-jae, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities in Seoul, told Xinhua.
Jeong said the rumors' spread reflected the still weak market sentiment among local stock players, forecasting that the KOSPI would trade at a current box range between 1,800 and 1,930 points, where 60-day and 120-day moving averages are placed.
Futures selling by foreign investors triggered huge program- linked transactions, which posted a net selling worth 144.3 billion won. Local institutions shifted to net sellers worth 77.8 billion won after buying more shares than selling them earlier in the session.
Offshore investors, however, were net buyers in spot by purchasing a net 97.1 billion won worth of local shares. Retail investors shored up stocks as well, buying a net 151.3 billion won worth of stocks.
Tech shares led the market decline. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics dipped 2.11 percent to 975,000 won, and its local rival LG Electronics slid 1.49 percent to 66,000 won. Flat screen maker LG Display ended flat at 24,050 won.
Auto shares lost ground. Top automaker Hyundai Motor slipped 1. 74 percent to 226,000 won, and its affiliate Kia Motors fell 0.68 percent to 73,000 won. The nation's largest auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis dropped 1.89 percent to 312,000 won.
Other large-cap shares showed poor performance. Top crude oil refiner SK Innovation dropped more than 3 percent, and the nation' s top banking group KB Financial Group dropped over 2 percent. The world's largest shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries also lost over 2 percent.
In contrast, memory chip giant Hynix Semiconductor gained 1.36 percent to end at 22,350 won after the nation's biggest mobile- phone operator SK Telecom agreed to buy a 21.1 percent stake in the chipmaker, but SK Telecom lost 1.02 percent to 145,500 won on concerns over the telecom company's financial burden from the stake purchases.
The local currency finished at 1,136.6 won against the greenback, down 10.5 won from Tuesday's close.
Bond prices ended higher. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes fell 0.02 percentage point to 3.34 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds slid 0.03 percentage point to 3.49 percent.