South Korean shares plunged Thursday as fears spread that Italy may seek international bailout after its borrowing costs breached the dangerous seven percent level, analysts said.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) dropped 94.28 points, or 4.94 percent, to close at 1,813.25. Trading volume stood at 391.75 million shares worth 7.68 trillion won (6. 76 billion U.S. dollars). The local stock market closed at 4 p.m., one hour later than usual, due to the national college entrance exam.
The KOSPI started 2.77 percent lower, and stayed at a low level during the trading. Investors' sentiment was directly hit by Italian debt woes. The yield on the Italy's 10-year government bond soared to a euro-era record of 7.21 percent, breaching the dangerous threshold of seven percent at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal sought bailout funds.
The three peripheral nations were all forced to seek bailout funds after their borrowing costs reached similar levels. Greece sought international bailout just 17 days after its borrowing costs breached the seven percent level, while Ireland and Portugal took 22 days and 91 days each in seeking bailouts after their yields breached that level.
"Italy's Treasury bond yield breached the dangerous seven percent level at which Europe's troubled nations called for bailout funds. Italy is highly likely to seek bailout funds, but many doubt that the euro-area's rescue fund and the IMF have enough bullet to help Italy avert default," Kang Hyun-gie, an analyst at Solomon Investment & Securities in Seoul, told Xinhua.
Foreign investors led the market decline by dumping a net 504.1 billion won worth of local stocks, but retail and institutional investors remained net buyers to shore up shares. Retail investors purchased a net 655.3 billion won worth of shares, while local institutions bought shares worth 92.4 billion won.
All industry groups fell sharply, with large-cap shares dropping more than five percent. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics plunged 5.08 percent to 935,000 won, and its local rival LG Electronics sank 3.96 percent to 60,700 won. Hynix Semiconductor, the world's No.2 chipmaker, slipped 2.49 percent to 21,500 won.
Bank shares were under heavy selling pressures due to renewed concerns over Europe's debt crisis. The nation's largest banking group by assets Woori Finance Holdings tumbled 7.34 percent to 9, 590 won, and its rival Shinhan Financial Group dived 7.54 percent to 38,600 won.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor dipped 5.74 percent to 221,500 won, and its affiliate Kia Motors shed 3.5 percent to 71,700 won. The nation's biggest auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis plummeted more than five percent.
The world's largest shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries tumbled 7.76 percent to end at 261,500 won, and leading shipping firm Hanjin Shipping dropped nearly eight percent.
The local currency finished at 1,134.2 won against the greenback, down 16.8 won from Wednesday's close.
Bond prices ended higher. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes dropped 0.05 percentage point to 3.33 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds fell 0.04 percentage point to 3.47 percent. (One U.S. dollar equals 1133.9 won.)