South Korean stocks closed little changed Friday after a choppy trading, as investors took to the sidelines on speculation that the partial government shutdown in the U.S. could last longer than expected, analysts said. The local currency rose slightly against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) slipped 2.49 points, or 0.12 percent, to finish at 1,996.98. Trading volume was light at 236.5 million shares worth 4.24 trillion won (US$3.95 billion) with decliners far outpacing gainers 538 to 269.
Analysts said the ongoing political stalemate among U.S. lawmakers over the fiscal budget is beginning to have investors think that it won't be settled in a short while.
"It took Washington no more than six days on average in past 17 government shutdowns, during which the KOSPI moved up an average 0.2 percent. We see uncertainties, but it's something that we need to tackle only for a short term," said Lee Hyun-joo, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities Co.
Foreigners bought a net 413.2 billion won on the main bourse, extending its buying streak since Aug. 23. Retail and institutional investors sold off a net 154.2 billion won and 237.6 billion won each.
Shipping lines drove the shares down. Hyundai Merchant Marine tumbled 4.62 percent to 15,500 won, with Hanjin Shipping declining 4.08 percent to 8,230 won.
Tongyang Securities, the brokerage arm of the cash-strapped Tong Yang Group, spiked nearly 14 percent in the earlier trading following a rumor that it will be acquired by Lotte Group, a major conglomerate, before paring gains to finish up 5.35 percent to 2,560 won.
Top-cap Samsung Electronics finished unchanged at 1,418,000 won after announcing its earnings guidance for the third quarter, in which it estimated a record operating profit of 10.1 trillion won for the past quarter.
The local currency ended at 1,070.30 won against the greenback, up 3.7 won from Wednesday's close, largely due to a weaker dollar, dealers said. The Seoul bourse was closed on Thursday for the National Foundation Day.