South Korean stocks gained marginally higher Tuesday as investors took a wary approach ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy-setting meeting, analysts said. The local currency edged up against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 3.62 points, or 0.18 percent, to close at 2,051.76. Trading volume was light at 303.0 million shares worth 3.56 trillion won (US$3.35 billion), but decliners outnumbered gainers 412 to 385.
The KOSPI swerved in and out of positive territory in choppy trading, with foreigners almost snapping their net buying spree before closing the session with a net purchase of 102.3 billion won.
It marks the 43rd consecutive session of a foreigners' buying binge on the Seoul bourse.
Analysts said the light turnover means investors are eyeing the Fed's move toward reducing its bond-buying program at the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting slated for Oct. 29-30, U.S. time.
"There've been growing expectations that the Fed will keep its stance on its expansionary monetary policy, which will reduce market risks and spur inflows of risky assets into our market," said Park Sung-hoon, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities Co.
Analysts predicted the KOSPI will likely keep its upward spirit on the back of a recent bullish mode seen in shares of three major sectors that drive the market: tech, auto and chemical. The sectors went up 1.5 percent, 2.6 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, over the past two weeks.
On Tuesday, the gain was led by state-run blue-chips and chemical companies. State electricity provider Korea Electric Power Corp. climbed 1.3 percent to 28,400 won with Lotte Chemical soaring 4.94 percent to 212,500 won.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics rose 0.54 percent to 1,490,000 won.
But auto and logistics shares lost ground. Hyundai Motor finished down 1.32 percent to 261,500 won and Hyundai Merchant Marine slumped 3.83 percent to 15,050 won.
The local currency ended at 1,060.60 won against the greenback, up 0.5 won from Monday's close, as foreigners increased their bets in Seoul shares, dealers said.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasuries shed 0.02 percentage point to 2.80 percent and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds fell 0.03 percentage point to 3.03 percent.