Seoul shares close flat as U.S. fiscal concerns offset ex-dividend
* Turnover at 80 pct of 30-session average
* Elec and gas utilities up on price hike hopes
* Mobile carriers edge down on regulatory ban, fine
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Dec 26 (Reuters) - South Korean shares closed flat on Wednesday, paring gains in thin trade as some purchases made before the ex-dividend date on Thursday were offset by uncertainty, including questions over U.S. fiscal talks.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended up 0.02 percent at 1,982.25 points.
The KOSPI's turnover stood at 3.5 trillion Korean won ($3.26 billion) on Wednesday, according to Reuters data. This was just 80 percent of its 30-session daily weighted average trading volume, in line with the historical pattern of trading volume trending low near year-end.
"The main board rose, tracing Tuesday's gains in Asian peers plus due to some purchases before the ex-dividend date, but it was offset late in the session by concerns about the progress of U.S. fiscal talks," said Bae Sung-young, an analyst at Hyundai Securities.
Thursday is the day on which shares go ex-dividend, meaning that people who buy after then won't qualify for dividends for the current reporting period.
Blue-chips closed mixed. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co Ltd pared earlier gains to close down 0.3 percent at 1.47 million won per share, edging further away from to its lifetime high of 1.533 million won reached on Dec. 13.
Shares in electric power and gas companies were bullish with state utility Korea Electric Power Corp up 1.7 percent while Korea Gas Corp rose 2 percent.
"Investor hopes for a hike in electricity prices is pushing share prices up despite the government's denial of an imminent price hike as the necessity for higher prices continues to be mentioned within Korea Electric Power Corp," said Shin Min-seok, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp.
But mobile carriers SK Telecom Co Ltd, KT Corp and LG Uplus Corp all fell at least 0.4 percent after South Korea's telecommunications regulator on Monday decided to ban the carriers from attracting new subscribers for a combined 66 days.
The regulator said the mobile carriers had "unfairly discriminated" against subscribers in providing subsidies and also slapped them with a total of 11.9 billion won in fines.
Gainers outnumbered decliners 459 to 367. The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks closed down 0.1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.2 percent lower.
Move on day +0.02 percent
12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012
12-month low 1,750.60 25 July 2012
Change on yr +8.5 percent
All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011
All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981
($1 = 1074.1500 Korean won)
(Additional reporting by Seongwon Chang; Editing by Matt Driskill)
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