Seoul shares tread water in thin trade; Samsung Elec gains
* Investors eye Obama's State of the Union address for momentum
* Oil and chemical shares up on improved pricing outlooks
* Ssangyong Motor down 5 pct after rights issue report
SEOUL, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Seoul shares traded nearly flat on Tuesday morning as nvestors awaited events such as the U.S. President's State of the Union address to lend momentum.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ticked 0.1 percent lower at 1,949.5 points as of 0207 GMT.
"Investors are eyeing exchange rates and refraining from making large moves across the board as the yen reaches fresh lows against the dollar," said Park Hae-sung, an analyst at LIG Investment & Securities.
The yen hovered near fresh lows against the dollar on Tuesday after a U.S. official voiced support for Japan's drive to beat deflation, assuaging fears that criticism of its aggressive monetary stance could escalate.
But MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was little changed, as they looked ahead to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address later on Tuesday for any signs of a deal to avert automatic spending cuts due to take effect on March 1.
Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 0.5 percent, extending a 3 percent gain on Friday as the local currency edged down against the dollar early on Tuesday.
Samsung Electronics had shed 4.9 percent of its value in January as the weak yen and the strong won fuelled worries that blue-chip exporters would be hobbled versus Japanese competitors in overseas markets.
Oil and chemical shares were bullish on expectations of rebounding polysilicon prices and improved oil refining margins, as OCI rose 4.3 percent.
But state-run utilities such as Korea Electric Power Corp and Korea Gas Corp extended losses on media reports of a government-held stake sale or a possible rights issue.
Among daily movers, shares in Ssangyong Motor fell 5.2 percent after a Korean media report said Ssangyong is pursuing a rights issue worth about 100 billion won ($91 million).
Tongyang Networks also fell 3.7 percent after it said preferential talks with IBM's South Korean unit to buy its IT services business had been tentatively postponed.
Declining shares slightly outnumbered gainers 377 to 368.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was flat, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.3 percent higher. (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Eric Meijer)