Seoul shares end down as automakers lose on firming won

Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:56am EST

* South Korean won hits 17-month high; yen at 2 1/2-year lows

* Bank of Korea cuts GDP growth outlook; China inflation accelerates

* Halla Climate gains on planned purchase of Visteon assets

By Joyce Lee and Hyunjoo Jin

SEOUL, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Seoul shares finished lower on Friday as the South Korean won's rise to a 17-month high weighed on exporters, while sentiment was dampened by worries over economic growth domestically and in China.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished down 0.5 percent at 1,996.67 points, marking a weekly loss of 0.76 percent.

Programme selling pulled the KOSPI lower, with a net 229 billion Korean won ($216 million) worth of stocks on the main index sold by computer-driven trading -- the biggest selling amount in more than two months, according to Korea Exchange data.

Foreigners also turned into net sellers after three consecutive sessions of buying, offloading 10.4 billion won worth of shares on the KOSPI, according to the data.

"Sentiment has quickly soured due to the exchange rate, with investors offloading exporters and other cyclicals," said Cho Sung-joon, an analyst at NH Securities.

The local currency rose to a 17-month high of 1,056.1 against the dollar, tracking gains by other risk-linked currencies after the European Central Bank said the common currency zone's growth will gradually recover later this year.

In contrast, the yen slid to 2 1/2-year lows on Friday. [ID: nL4N0AG221]

Auto shares lost ground on concerns that Japanese competitors will benefit from both a weakening yen and a strengthening won.

Hyundai Motor Co dropped 1.7 percent while sibling Kia Motors Corp fell 2.2 percent.

Adding to worries about slower growth, Korea's central bank revised down its outlook for South Korea's GDP growth in 2013 to 2.8 percent from 3.2 percent.

The Bank of Korea held interest rates at 2.75 percent, in line with expectations.

Cho added that sentiment was also hurt after China's annual consumer inflation overshot market expectations to rise to a seven-month high of 2.5 percent in December, dampening chances of further policy easing by China.

Halla Climate Control Corp ended up 2.3 percent after the company said it plans to buy the climate control operations of parent company Visteon Corp for 439.2 billion Korean won.

STX Pan Ocean Co Ltd extended recent gains, rising 4.4 percent after saying that its parent STX Corp had picked two advisers for its planned sale of a controlling stake in the shipping unit.

Move on day -0.5 percent

12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012

12-month low 1,769.31 25 July 2012

Change on yr 0 percent

All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011

All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981 ($1 = 1060.3500 Korean won) (Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Richard Pullin)

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