Seoul shares edge up on U.S. data, soft corporate earnings cap gains

Thu Feb 6, 2014 9:34pm EST

* Blue-chip exporters supported by optimistic U.S. data

* Weaker-than-expected Q4 earnings pile on, cap the index

* Offshore investors reposition as net buyers, 1st in 5 days

SEOUL, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Seoul shares inched higher on Friday morning after U.S. data eased worries about the world's largest economy, but a batch of worse-than-expected corporate earnings limited rises.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.4 percent at 1,914.90 points as of 0212 GMT.

"Confirming the strength of the U.S. economy is the priority for investors, even more so due to lacklustre earnings, as the outlook for blue-chip exporters is highly dependent on it," said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities.

Wall Street posted its best day of the year on Thursday after initial jobless claims data came in below economists' forecast, easing concerns about the U.S. economy.

Responding to the jobs data, heavyweight exporters such as Hyundai Motor Co and SK Hynix Inc gained 1.3 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

Investors now await January U.S. non-farm payrolls data due later in the day to further confirm the state of South Korea's second-largest export market.

Foreign investors positioned as net buyers near the mid-session, picking up a net 71.1 billion won ($65.9 million) worth of KOSPI shares.

Meanwhile, worse-than-expected earnings have dragged on the main index. Of the 89 companies in the KOSPI that have reported October-December quarter earnings so far this season, 53 have recorded an 'earnings shock' by posting figures below expectations of 10 percent or worse, according to the latest data from Thomson Reuters.

Falling under that column, Lotte Shopping Co Ltd and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co Ltd dropped 5.9 percent and 4.3 percent, respectively.

On top of sluggish fourth quarter earnings, GS Engineering & Construction Corp was hit by concerns about its cash flow, plummeting 11.4 percent near mid-session.

A regulatory filing on Friday said it was considering a capital increase through issuance of new stocks.

On the other side, cosmetics maker Amorepacific Corp jumped 6.6 percent on the back of upbeat fourth quarter earnings, bringing its mother company Amorepacific Group 3.1 percent higher.

State-run energy companies Korea Electric Power Corp and Korea Gas Corp rose 2.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, after unveiling plans to meet the government's aim of reducing debt of state-run companies by 2017.

Advancers outnumbered declining shares 487 to 283. ($1 = 1079.0000 Korean won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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