South Korean stocks finished marginally higher Tuesday as foreign investors snapped up blue-chip tech and auto exporters, outweighing losses in banks and steelmakers, analysts said. The local currency fell against the U.S. dollar.
After bobbing in and out of negative territory, the benchmark KOSPI edged up 0.6 points, or 0.03 percent, to 1,909.63. Trading volume was moderate at 348 million shares worth 6.19 trillion won ($5.56 billion) with losers leading gainers 541 to 290.
“Foreign investors continued to pick up local shares as they thought the impact of MF Global’s failure would be limited,” said Kwak Joong-bo, an analyst at Samsung Securities Co. “Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor, the two largest-cap companies, gained ground, which helped limit declines.”
The KOSPI opened lower after concerns about Europe’s financial crisis sent Wall Street sharply lower on Monday. U.S. stock markets slumped as MF Global Holdings, a U.S. trading firm that made bets on Europe’s sovereign debts, filed for bankruptcy protection.
Despite the downbeat economic conditions overseas, foreign investors retained appetite for Seoul stocks. They added a net 170.2 billion won worth of local stocks, extending a net buying streak for a fourth session.
Chipmakers were the brightest spot. Samsung Electronics rose 2.27 percent to 990,000 won as investors continued to bet its earnings would improve in the coming months. Hynix Semiconductor jumped 4.6 percent to 23,900 won.
Hyundai Motor added 1.98 percent to 231,500 won. The company reported a 13.6 percent on-year jump in its October vehicle sales thanks to strong overseas demand. Its smaller affiliate Kia Motors surged 3.32 percent to 74,700 won.
Financial companies and banks, however, ended in negative territory, mirroring losses among their U.S. peers. KB Financial Group lost 1.61 percent to 42,700 won and Woori Finance Holdings fell 1.84 percent to 10,650 won.
The local currency closed at 1,114 won to the greenback, down 4 won from Monday’s close, as investors sought safe assets amid uncertainties in Europe, dealers said.