Seoul shares flat; won strength weighs on autos

Sun Feb 3, 2013 10:34pm EST

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* Defensives outperform; media and telcos up 2.4 pct

* Hyundai and Kia down more than 1 pct

* STX Pan Ocean slides 6 pct on stake sale woes

By Somang Yang

SEOUL, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Seoul shares were flat on Monday, with strength in the South Korean currency and a slew of unimpressive domestic earnings countering robust economic data that pushed U.S. stocks to a five-year high.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.05 percent at 1,956.44 points as of 0326 GMT, giving up earlier gains. It has staged a small rally since marking its lowest point in over a month near 1,930 on Jan. 28 but at the same time has failed to gain much momentum.

"The index opened higher due to the U.S.-led rally, but it is losing steam on old issues -- lacklustre earnings, the exchange rate and program selling," said Park Jung-sup, an analyst at Daishin Securities.

The won has strengthened substantially, hitting a 17-month high against the dollar on Jan. 11, and although it has weakened some 3 percent since then, it is still trading at around 1,092 yen, stronger than the 1,100 level that analysts say will encourage foreign buying of Seoul stocks.

Auto stocks fell, with Hyundai Motor down 1.2 percent despite modestly increasing car sales in the United States in January. Affiliate Kia Motors dropped 2.1 percent.

Defensives outperformed, with the media and telecoms sub-index rising 2.4 percent while the health care stocks rose 1.2 percent.

But STX Pan Ocean slumped 6.2 percent after a source with knowledge of the matter said that one of its prospective buyers, SK Shipping would not seek to buy a controlling stake.

Advancing shares just topped losers, 372 to 362.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.3 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.2 percent higher. (Additional reporting by Seongwon Chang; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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