Seoul shares fall as Hyundai profit drop weighs
* Hyundai Motor falls 4.6 pct on weak Q4 result
* Techs fall on disappointing Apple earnings
* Steels, machinery up on strong China PMI data
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Jan 24 (Reuters) - South Korean shares eased on Thursday as auto stocks were dragged lower by Hyundai Motor's surprise quarterly profit fall and tech shares dropped on Apple Inc's disappointing results.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended down 0.8 percent at 1,964.48 points, it lowest close since Dec. 10.
"Although strong China PMI data spurred on sectors such as steel and industrial machinery to gain, the pronounced drop in auto and tech shares played a large part in the main board's decline," said Lee Jae-man, an analyst at Tong Yang Securities.
Auto stocks fell 3.3 percent, led down by a 4.6 percent fall in Hyundai Motor after the automaker posted a weaker-than expected quarterly profit of 1.89 trillion won ($1.77 billion).
Hyundai's record car sales were dented by a stronger local currency and the cost of compensating drivers in North America for overstated fuel-economy claims.
Tech shares declined 1.2 percent after Apple Inc's disappointing results spooked investors, with heavyweight Samsung Electronics sliding 1.4 percent.
Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor account for 21 percent of the KOSPI's market capitalisation.
Shares in POSCO, the world's fourth-largest steelmaker, rose 1.4 percent after data from China showed accelerated growth in the factory sector of the world's second-largest economy.
China is the world's top importer of iron ore, a key ingredient in steel products.
North Korea's announcement of further rocket launches and a nuclear test targeting the United States had little impact on the market. Historically, increased geopolitical risk has limited and short-lived impact on South Korean stocks.
Foreign investors sold a net 223.5 billion won ($209.6 million) worth of KOSPI shares, weighing on the main board.
Decliners outnumbered gainers 521 to 290.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks and the junior KOSDAQ both closed down 0.9 percent, respectively.
Move on day -0.8 percent
12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012
12-month low 1,769.31 25 July 2012
Change on yr -3.3 percent
All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011
All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981 ($1 = 1066.2000 Korean won) (Editing by Richard Pullin)