South Korean shares kept downward trend for five sessions in a row on Monday as investors were awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve's closely-watched policy meeting this week for the timing of the reduction in its quantitative easing.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) inched down 1.76 points, or 0.09 percent, to close at 1,961.15. Trading volume stood at 210.21 million shares worth 2.81 trillion won (2. 67 billion U.S. dollars).
A string of U.S. economic data coming out above market consensus in the past two weeks hinted at the tapering of the Fed' s bond purchases in the upcoming meeting scheduled for Dec. 17-18, weighing on market sentiment recently.
The KOSPI staged a volatile trading session as investors weighed the timing of the Fed's first reduction in its asset purchases. Some experts forecast the tapering in December, while others predicted it in March next year.
Foreign investors sold a net 64.6 billion won worth of local stocks, maintaining their selling streak for five straight sessions. Institutional investors bought shares worth 88.7 billion won, but retail investors were net sellers of a net 26.6 billion won worth of stocks.
Large-cap shares ended mixed. Top automaker Hyundai Motor declined 1.5 percent, and consumer electronics giant LG Electronics slid 1.2 percent. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gained 0.7 percent, and the state-run power provider Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) added 1.1 percent.
The South Korean currency finished at 1,051.5 won against the greenback, up 1.1 won from Friday's close.
Bond prices ended higher. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes dipped 0.04 percentage point to 2.92 percent, and the return on the benchmark 10-year government bonds slid 0.05 percentage point to 3.63 percent.