Seoul shares fall on hawkish Fed, BOK rate freeze


SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) — South Korean stocks lost ground Thursday as rising odds of interest rate hikes in the United States weighed on investor sentiment, while the Bank of Korea froze the key interest rate. The local currency fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index dropped 19.2 points, or 0.89 percent, to close at 2,148.31. Trading volume was moderate at 317.73 million shares worth 4.15 trillion won (US$3.65 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 568 to 256.

The index started on a weak note and extended losses as both foreigners and institutions dumped local shares.

Wall Street retreated overnight after the Federal Reserve minutes showed broad consensus for a further rate hike on the back of robust growth and the job market.

South Korea’s central bank kept the lending rate steady for October on worsening economic data and low inflation pressure.

The BOK also trimmed its growth forecast for 2018 from 2.9 percent to 2.7 percent, citing economic uncertainties over global trade tensions.

“The Federal Reserve’s minutes hinting at raising interest rates further are a negative factor, which also dented investor sentiment on the local market,” Seo Sang-young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities, said.

Institutions and foreigners dumped a net 218.91 billion won and 53.76 billion won worth of local stocks, respectively, while individuals picked up a net 226.55 billion won.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics edged down 0.23 percent to 44,050 won, and pharmaceutical giant Celltrion fell 1.88 percent to 260,500 won.

Leading automaker Hyundai Motor shed 2.11 percent to 116,000 won, and top steelmaker POSCO decreased 2.76 percent to 264,000 won.

Naver, the nation’s top portal operator, sank 3.85 percent to 125,000 won on downbeat third-quarter earnings prospects.

The South Korean currency closed at 1,135.2 won against the U.S. dollar, down 8.7 won from Wednesday’s close.

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