Seoul shares shrug off N.Korea rocket launch, post modest gains

Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:45pm EST

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* LG Display falls 4.5 pct on outlook speculation

* STX Pan Ocean jumps 15 pct on stake sale hopes

By Somang Yang and Joyce Lee

SEOUL, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Seoul shares were slightly higher on Wednesday morning, shrugging off news of North Korea's rocket launch, but profit-taking on large caps limited gains.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ticked 0.4 percent higher to 1,971.67 points as of 0220 GMT.

"North Korea is no longer an economic match for the South, so, short of a full-scale conflict, the North's actions will have little impact on the KOSPI," said Im No-jung, chief economist at IM Investment & Securities.

Isolated and impoverished neighbour North Korea launched the second rocket this year on Wednesday just before 10 a.m. and may have finally succeeded in putting a satellite into space, the stated aim of what critics say is a disguised ballistic missile test.

LG Display extended the week's losses, falling 4.5 percent. Market watchers said a sell-off may have been prompted by a media report projecting poor earnings early next year.

Other large caps such as automakers Hyundai Motor and sibling Kia Motors were also falling slightly.

However, most shares were advancing, outnumbering losers 438 to 331.

Shipper STX Pan Ocean was one of the biggest winners, with shares jumping almost 15 percent in early trading after local online news media Money Today reported its biggest stakeholder STX Corp was mulling selling a stake in STX Pan Ocean.

"STX Pan Ocean's performance has taken a beating, but the company is seen better off being sold than as an affiliate of the financially troubled STX Group in terms of financial support or credit rating," said Park Sung-bong, a shipping sector analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.4 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.5 percent higher. (Additional reporting by Seongwon Chang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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