Seoul shares firm on upbeat data, but profit taking caps gains
* KOSPI struggles to break through 2,050-point level
* Q3 earnings results lift LG Display, Samsung Eng
* Automakers, shipbuilders down on profit taking
SEOUL, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Seoul shares ticked up on Friday morning helped by a brighter global economic outlook and persistent foreign investor demand, while some investors locked in profits which capped gains.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) edged up 0.1 percent to 2,042.94 points by 0235 GMT, struggling to breakthrough the 2,050 point level, which is the upper limit of a range analysts say the main bourse has been trapped within.
"China and U.S. data are solid but not enough to stir a surprise rally, as much of the result has been already priced in to the main board," said Hanwha Securities analyst Bae Jae-hyun.
China's annual economic growth quickened to 7.8 percent between July and September, the fastest growth this year and in line with expectations, China's National Bureau of Statistics showed.
U.S. surveys provided confidence about the world's largest economy as Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped from a six-month high last week and firms' optimism about the future hit a 10-year high.
The main board was underpinned by offshore buying that stood at 134.8 billion won ($126.75 million) in the morning. Foreigners are on track to extend their longest buying streak to a 36th consecutive session.
But with uncertainties in the economic outlook fading, some investors took the opportunity to profit from stocks that had recently risen.
Automakers and shipbuilders suffered from profit taking with investors concerned about the recently stronger won hurting future earnings. Hyundai Motor Co and Samsung Heavy Industries Co Ltd declined 3.2 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively.
The won traded as high as 1,060.1 per dollar, its strongest since Jan. 22, but gave up some of those gains after an official said the finance ministry was concerned the won's recent movements might be influenced by offshore speculators.
With July-September quarter earnings kicking off, companies that posted upbeat figures attracted investors.
LG Display Co Ltd, the biggest maker of liquid-crystal display panels, gained 2.1 percent after announcing its third-quarter operating profit on Thursday, which increased 31 percent more than in the same period a year earlier at 389 billion won.
Samsung Engineering Co Ltd rose 2.3 percent despite posting an unexpected third-quarter loss earlier in the day. The 746.7 billion won loss for the past quarter was seen as a result of restructuring within the company.
Naver Corp rose 4.8 percent as its U.S. peer Google Inc posted an impressive quarterly result, enhancing hopes of a spillover effect.
Declining shares outnumbered gainers 407 to 364.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks edged up 0.1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ gained 0.5 percent.