South Korean stocks ended 0.92 percent higher on Monday as investor sentiment was underpinned by eased woes over Greece's debt crisis and better-than-expected U.S. data, analysts said. The local currency hit a near three-year high against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) advanced 19.56 points to 2,145.30. Trading volume was moderate at 288.5 million shares worth 6.68 trillion won (US$6.3 billion) with gainers outpacing losers 516 to 307.
"Gains in U.S. markets lent support to the KOSPI as a set of factors like the risk of Greece's potential default somewhat eased," said Kwak Joong-bo, a market analyst at Samsung Securities Co.
"This week, the Seoul bourse is likely to gain ground although investors will first await a set of U.S. data including employment numbers in a bid to gauge the pace of the U.S. recovery."
U.S markets closed higher on Friday due to eased concerns about Greece's debt crisis. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1.36 percent and the tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index gained 1.53 percent.
Finance ministers in the eurozone agreed on Saturday to disburse the fifth tranche of a bailout package for Greece, easing some concerns about the deepening debt crisis.
An index of Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed the growth pace of its manufacturing unexpectedly picked up, helping to dispel concerns about the U.S. recovery.
Tech, bank and auto shares gained ground, pushing the KOSPI to as high as 2,153.29 at one point.
Market leader Samsung Electronics added 2.69 percent to 878,000 won and top automaker Hyundai Motor advanced 1.66 percent to 244,500 won.
Securities shares were in focus as they rose in tandem with the market gain. Leading brokerage house Daewoo Securities jumped 7.73 percent to 19,500 won and Samsung Securities rose 2.53 percent to 81,100 won.
But Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) fell 4.72 percent to 9,080 won after its board decided to pay out a record interim dividend to the bank's biggest shareholder, Lone Star Funds. Hana Financial Group, which is in talks to extend a deal to buy KEB, rose 2.82 percent to 38,350 won on expectations that it may lower the takeover price.
The local currency ended at 1,063.50 won to the dollar, up 3.10 won from Friday's close, as offshore investors snapped up local stocks, dealers said. The won rose to the highest level since Aug. 22, 2008.