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(LEAD) Seoul stocks at over 1-yr low on rate hike concerns

(ATTN: ADDS bond yields at bottom, photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 21 (Yonhap) — South Korean stocks retreated nearly 1 percent Friday, marking the lowest closing since December 2020, due to inflation woes amid heightened expectations of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) declined 28.39 points, or 0.99 percent, to close at 2,834.29 points.

Trading volume was moderate at about 524 million shares worth some 10.5 trillion won (US$8.8 billion), with losers far outnumbering gainers 610 to 246.

Institutions and foreigners offloaded a net 643.8 billion won and 221.1 billion won, respectively, while retail investors scooped up a net 896.9 billion won alone.

The stock market got off to a lackluster start, tracking an overnight fall on Wall Street amid surging global inflation woes and rising interest rates.

Concerns are mounting that the Federal Reserve will aggressively move to raise rates this year and investors are also awaiting the U.S. central bank’s policy meeting scheduled for next week.

“Investors’ anxiety heightened as the Federal Reserve entered a blackout period,” Shinhan Investment Corp. analyst Choi Yoo-joon said, adding that chip shares, noticeably No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix, retreated.

On the Seoul bourse, most large caps closed lower.

Market kingpin Samsung Electronics lost 1.18 percent to 75,600 won, and SK hynix retreated 4.8 percent to 119,000 won.

Internet portal operator Naver inched down 0.6 percent to 333,000 won, No. 1 refiner SK Innovation shed 5.08 percent to 252,000 won, and LG Chem inched down 0.29 percent to 694,000 won.

Among gainers, pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics inched up 0.25 percent to 818,000 won.

Shares in Kakao Bank and Kakao Pay, two financial arms of Kakao — the operator of the country’s most-used messenger — went up 2.46 percent to 43,800 won and jumped 6.62 percent to 145,000 won, respectively.

The local currency closed at 1,194 won against the U.S. dollar, down 1.6 won from the previous session’s close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 1.3 basis points to 2.132 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond was up 0.6 basis point to 2.352 percent.
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