South Korean shares managed to end in positive territory despite the ex-dividend date that was offset by expectations for rally in the new year of 2014.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) rose 2. 98 points, or 0.15 percent, to close at 2,002.28. Trading volume stood at 202.98 million shares worth 2.89 trillion won (2.74 billion U.S. dollars).
Amid thin trading ahead of the end of the year, foreigners bought stocks worth 73.3 billion won, relieving sales by institutional investors worth 74 billion won. Retail investors raised their holdings of stocks slightly by 3.5 billion won.
Foreign buying came as the ex-dividend date fell on Thursday. Ex-dividend dates are important to stock investors as owners of stocks on the ex-dividend date can receive the upcoming dividend payout regardless of who holds the stocks currently.
On or after the ex-dividend date, stocks usually decline in prices by the amount of the expected dividend.
Market watchers said that given the ex-dividend date, the KOSPI's rise on Thursday can be equal to a 1-percent gain, noting that foreign net buying in the KOSPI200 index futures reached a record high of 9,223 contracts. The massive futures buying means upbeat expectations for the local stock market by foreign investors.
The country's Finance Ministry said in its annual report that the South Korean economy was expected to grow at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in 2014, exceeding the global growth forecast of 3.6 percent for the first time in four years.
The ministry said the upbeat outlook was based on the expected recovery of the global economy that would boost exports, which account for around half of the Asia's No.4 economy.
Large-cap shares ended mixed. The nation's largest web search engine operator NAVER advanced 2.8 percent, and memory chip giant SK Hynix climbed 1.8 percent. The country's No.2 carmaker Kia Motors rose 1.1 percent, and the state-run power supplier Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) added 1.8 percent.
Representative dividend stock SK Telecom dropped more than 3 percent on the ex-dividend date, and one of leading banking groups Shinhan Financial Group slid 1.5 percent.
The South Korean currency finished at 1,053.9 won against the greenback, up 5.4 won from Thursday's close.
Bond prices ended higher. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes sank 0.05 percentage points to 2.83 percent, and the return on the benchmark 10-year government bonds fell 0.02 percentage point to 3.55 percent.