Seoul shares fall before key corporate earnings, China data disappoints

Wed Jan 22, 2014 9:36pm EST

* Hyundai Motor down before earnings results

* KB Financial Group extend skids, Samsung Card rises

SEOUL Jan 23 (Reuters) - Seoul shares ticked lower on Thursday morning as solid domestic economic growth data met a muted response from investors ahead of Hyundai Motor's earnings report, and China factory activity data disappointed.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.7 percent at 1,956.74 points as of 0210 GMT, on track to snap the three-day winning streak.

"The country's economic growth met forecast to underpin rosy outlook for this year, but the market focus is still towards monetary policies by central banks in developed countries, not fundamentals," said Tong Yang Securities analyst Cho Byung-hyun.

He added that U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting next week will factor in to shift the focus more on fundamentals.

The Bank of Korea said the economy grew a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter from the previous three months as capital investment grew at the fastest pace in nearly 2 years, meeting market expectations and boosting growth prospects for 2014.

Factory activity in China, South Korea's biggest export market, contracted in January for the first time in six months as new orders declined, a preliminary private survey showed on Thursday.

Offshore investors net sold 48.3 billion won ($45.3 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session, helping declining shares to outnumber advancing shares 447 to 293.

Automaker Hyundai Motor Co fell 1.5 percent while Kia Motors Corp edged up 0.9 percent. Hyundai Motor is to announce its fourth quarter earnings later in the day and Kia Motors is scheduled for Friday.

KB Financial Group Inc fell 1.9 percent as it faces sanctions after its card business unit was involved in a leak of customer information. Industry rival Samsung Card Co Ltd rose 2.3 percent.

The Financial Services Commission on Wednesday announced measures to prevent further leaks, and said it was considering imposing fines and transaction suspensions on KB Card, Lotte Card and Nonghyup Card.

Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd rose 2.1 percent to its highest price level since May 2012 after 2013 earnings data issued late Wednesday met the market expectation of 2 trillion won in total sales and 122 billion won in operating profit.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was down 0.8 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.5 percent higher. ($1 = 1067.3000 Korean won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Eric Meijer)