South Korean shares jumped Wednesday on news that the U.S. economy averted the so-called fiscal cliff after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a Senate bill that would extend current tax rates and postpone the automatic spending cuts.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) jumped 34.05 points, or 1.71 percent, to close at 2,031.10. Trading volume stood at 359.59 million shares worth 4.4 trillion won (4.14 billion U.S. dollars).
On the first trading day of the new year, the KOSPI started higher and extended its earlier gains throughout the session on positive news of the U.S. economy avoiding the fiscal cliff.
The bipartisan proposal, approved by both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, would prevent a tax rate rise on individuals with an annual income below 400,000 U.S. dollars and households making up to 450,000 dollars. Under the deal, jobless insurance benefits for around 2 million long-term unemployed would be extended for a year.
Meanwhile, the start of 1.2 trillion dollars in automatic spending cuts over 10 years would be put off for two months. It had been scheduled to begin with the start of the new year.
Foreign investors bought a net 172.2 billion won worth of local shares, turning into net buyers in three sessions. Institutional investors purchased shares worth 82.1 billion won, keeping their buying streak for five sessions in a row, but retail investors sold stocks worth 255.3 billion won in a bid to lock in profits.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics led the market rally to settle at a record closing high of 1,576,000 won, up 3.5 percent from the previous session. Leading chemical firm LG Chem advanced 3 percent to 340,000 won, and the state-run power supplier Korea Electric Power Corp. gained 3.6 percent to 31,550 won.
Consumer electronics giant LG Electronics surged 5.3 percent to 77,500 won on news that it unveiled the world's first 55-inch organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV, and memory chip giant SK Hynix gained 3.3 percent to 26,600 won.
Auto shares ended bearish on concerns over the local currency's appreciation against the U.S. dollar that would weaken price competitiveness of local automakers. Top automaker Hyundai Motor declined 1.1 percent to 216,000 won, and its affiliate Kia Motors edged down 0.3 percent to 56,300 won. The nation's biggest auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis inched down 0.2 percent to 287,500 won.
The local currency finished at 1,063.5 won against the greenback, up 7.1 won from Friday's close. The dollar/won exchange rate fell below the 1,070 won mark for the first time since Sept. 5, 2011.
Market watchers said that the passage of the U.S. fiscal bill boosted appetite for risky currencies such as the South Korean currency.
Bond prices ended mixed. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes closed steady at 2.82 percent, but the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds rose 0.01 percentage point to 2.98 percent.