S.Korean shares fall to near 4-month low as strong won clouds profit outlook
* Samsung Electronics extends fall on 4Q earnings fears
* Foreign investors maintain position as net sellers
SEOUL Jan 3 (Reuters) - South Korean shares slipped close to a four-month low on Friday morning as investors braced for a grim corporate earnings outlook at big exporters like Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, squeezed by the won's strength.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 1.2 percent at 1,943.67 points as of 0238 GMT, its lowest level since Sept. 5.
Friday's slide came the day after the index dropped 2.2 percent, its biggest one-day percentage fall since mid-July 2012, when the won climbed to its highest level against the dollar for about five years.
That ascent has raised concern among some investors that bellwether electronics giant Samsung Electronics may fall short of consensus forecasts when it reports preliminary earnings for the fourth quarter on Jan. 7.
Samsung Electronics slipped 0.9 percent on Friday following a 4.6 percent drop on Thursday, its worst daily percentage fall in almost six months.
"Fourth-quarter earnings tend to turn out weaker-than-expected due to one-off special bonus payments," said Lim Dong-rak, a market analyst at Hanyang Securities. "But for a symbolic company like Samsung Electronics to be involved in speculation of missing initial consensus by wide margin scares off investors, as it also points to a possible downward adjustment in this year's forecast."
The company is forecast to report a record 10.3 trillion won ($9.8 billion) operating profit for the October-December quarter, according to an average of 40 analysts' estimates compiled by the Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts at local brokerages say operating profit could be in the mid-9 trillion won range.
While the won did weaken slightly against the greenback and the yen on Friday morning, South Korea's Finance minister said the country is closely monitoring market volatility.
That weakening of the currency also helped Hyundai Motor Co stabilise the day after currency concerns and a forecast of its lowest annual growth in car sales this year since 2003 squeezed the stock to its the biggest daily percentage drop since July 12. The stock was broadly unchanged Friday.
Shipbuilding and banking shares also weighed on the benchmark index. Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co Ltd and KB Financial Group Inc dropped 4.2 percent and 2.5 percent respectively.
Foreign investors maintained their selling stance, offloading a net 82.2 billion won ($78.26 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session. ($1 = 1050.3000 Korean won)
(Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)
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