South Korean shares fell for three straight sessions on Monday as foreign investors continued to sell local shares amid lingering concerns over the U.S. fiscal cliff.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 3. 54 points, or 0.19 percent, to close at 1,900.87. Trading volume stood at 468.99 million shares worth 3.73 trillion won (3.43 billion U.S. dollars).
The KOSPI started lower, and stayed in negative terrain throughout the session due to worries about the U.S. fiscal cliff.
The fiscal cliff issue refers to a string of tax increases and steep spending cuts to the tune of 600 billion U.S. dollars set to go into effect from the start of next year unless Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. Congress can reach a deal and arrange a deficit-cutting compromise.
U.S. President Barack Obama said last week that he was"open to new ideas" on resolving the fiscal cliff, but his comments failed to erase market concerns over the issue. Many market watchers warned that failure to deal with the issue would likely drive the U.S. economy back into recession and drag down other economies with it.
In addition to the fiscal cliff issue, major global events led investors to take to the sidelines. The European Union (EU) finance ministers meeting will be held this week, with major economic indicators scheduled to be released this week in the U.S. and Europe.
Offshore investors kept their selling streak for three straight sessions by offloading a net 155.1 billion won worth of local stocks. Institutional and retail investors bought shares worth 102. 9 billion won and 39 billion won each, limiting the KOSPI's further decline.
Large-cap shares ended mixed. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics edged up 0.3 percent to 1,345,000 won, and top automaker Hyundai Motor gained 1.17 percent to 216,500 won. The nation's No.1 life insurer Samsung Life Insurance rose 0.33 percent to 92,600 won, but top steelmaker POSCO declined 1.07 percent to 323,000 won.
The nation's No.2 carmaker Kia Motors inched down 0.18 percent to 56,500 won, and leading chemical firm LG Chem retreated 0.65 percent to 305,500 won. Memory chip giant SK Hynix fell 0.39 percent to 25,300, won.
The local currency finished at 1,088.6 won against the greenback, down 1.0 won from Friday's close.