Seoul shares inch up on China GDP, caution reigns
* Samsung Elec rally on the back of bargain seekers
* Bird flu drives vaccine, fisheries up
* Personal information leakage drag KB Financial, Lotte Shopping
SEOUL, Jan 20 (Reuters) - Seoul shares steadied on Monday morning, buoyed by better-than-expected economic growth in China and bargain hunting, but investors stayed cautious at the start of a week that will offer macroeconomic cues from home and abroad as well as corporate earnings.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.2 percent at 1,948.97 points as of 0220 GMT.
"The market still needs to shake off lingering uncertainties about firm global economic recovery, the pace of the Federal Reserve's stimulus cut and corporate results for a meaningful upward push," said Lim Dong-rak, a market analyst at Hanyang Securities. "However the market's bottom is strongly supported by cheap valuation of local stocks, which will set up the market for another lacklustre week."
China's annual economic growth eased to 7.7 percent between October and December 2013 from 7.8 percent in the previous three months, slightly ahead of market expectations for growth of 7.6 percent, data showed on Monday.
South Korea will release its own fourth quarter GDP data on Thursday.
Also, later this week big-names such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Hyundai Motor Co are scheduled to report their earnings.
Investors will also keep an eye on a Bank of Japan policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, though the central bank is expected to leave its massive asset buying program unchanged.
Earlier this month Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, which accounts for nearly a fifth of total market capitalisation, reported weaker-than-expected preliminary fourth-quarter earnings sending the share to its lowest level in five months on Jan 10.
Bargain hunters helpted the share gain 1.5 percent on Monday, with final fourth quarter earnings due to be released on Friday.
The outbreak of highly pathogenic bird flu in the country brought pharmaceuticals and fishery stocks higher, with VGX International Inc and Dongwon Fisheries Co Ltd jumping 11 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs on Saturday said the case reported at a farm in the southwestern country of Gochang, about 300 km (186 miles) from Seoul, was of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain.
Meanwhile, the biggest customer information leakage by unlisted Lotte Card, KB Card, and Nonghyup Card dragged their respective affiliates. Lotte Shopping Co Ltd dropped 1.8 percent while KB Financial Group Inc slipped 0.9 percent.
The Financial Supervisory Services (FSS) said the personal information that had been leaked accumulates to more than 100 million, and issued a consumer alert on Sunday.
Institutional investors sold a net 10.7 billion won ($10.1 million) worth of KOSPI shares by near mid-session, while decliners outnumbered advancers 445 to 315. ($1 = 1059.7500 Korean won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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