South Korean shares ended slightly lower on Monday as foreign investors took to the sidelines due to mounting geopolitical tensions on the Korean peninsula, analysts said.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 7. 64 points, or 0.38 percent, to close at 2,019.19. Trading volume stood at 431.29 million shares worth 4.51 trillion won (3.95 billion U.S. dollars).
The KOSPI started higher on Wall Street gains last weekend, but it turned into negative terrain after overseas investors dumped around 2,000 contracts of KOSPI200 index futures in the morning session due to growing tensions on the peninsula following the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s announcement of rocket launch.
DPRK reportedly planned to launch in mid-April Kwangmyongsong-3, a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite manufactured by itself with indigenous technology, to market the 100th birth anniversary of the late leader Kim Il Sung.
"Local shares took a strong start on Wall Street bullish close last week, but they took correction on foreign selling of index futures amid concerns over the DPRK's planned rocket launch," Kwak Joong-bo, an analyst at Samsung Securities in Seoul, told Xinhua.
Kwak noted that shares sensitive to the Chinese economic conditions, including steel and chemical shares, showed underperformance amid weakening outlook for the world's No.2 economy, saying that expectations for the first-quarter earnings season was also downgraded.
Foreign investors led the market decline by selling shares via index futures, triggering program-linked selling, but they sold a relatively small amount of shares on spots worth 68.2 billion won. Local institutions pulled down the KOSPI by offloading a net 288.3 billion won worth of stocks, but retail investors purchased a net 305.3 billion won worth of share, maintaining their buying streak for eight straight sessions.
Large-cap shares ended mixed amid underperformance in steel and chemical shares. Leading chemical firm LG Chem dropped 5.17 percent to 348,500 won, and the nation's No.2 crude oil refiner S- Oil slid 3.39 percent to 114,000 won. Top steelmaker POSCO fell 0. 52 percent to 381,500 won.
In contrast, tech and auto shares limited the further decline after rising on positive outlook for the first quarter earnings. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gained 1.11 percent to 1,275, 000 won, and the country's second largest carmaker Kia Motors added 1.11 percent to 72,800 won.
The local currency finished at 1,141.6 won against the greenback, down 6.3 won from Friday's close.
Bond prices ended higher. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes dipped 0.02 percentage point to 3.62 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds dropped 0. 04 percentage point to 3.78 percent.