Seoul shares edge higher before Fed chair testimony

Mon Feb 10, 2014 9:45pm EST

* Nongshim, CJ CGV rise on improved earnings outlook

* KAI slips as Odin Hldgs plans to offload 5 pct stake

* Hanjinkal tumbles as some investors lock in gains

SEOUL, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Seoul shares inched up early Tuesday to hit their highest intraday level in almost two weeks as index giant Samsung Electronics rose on bargain-hunting, but gains were capped before the new U.S. central bank chief speaks to Congress.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was 0.4 percent lower at 1,931.30 points at 0231 GMT after touching an intraday high of 1,931.94, its highest since Jan. 29.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear on Tuesday before the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, dominated by the Republican party, and on Thursday before the Senate Banking Committee, dominated by the Democratic party.

"The market is more ready to be relieved than to cheer on Yellen's comments, which are expected to clarify uncertainties about the Fed's tapering pace and interest hike plans," Mirae Asset Securities analyst Chung Seung-jae, referring to the central bank reducing the amount of bonds it buys.

"In the absence of a Fed meeting in February, her testimonies are seen as the biggest risk event for the month."

KOSPI stock decliners led advancers by only 398 to 380, reflecting a lack of market-moving speculation ahead of the testimonies.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, the largest component in the KOSPI, advanced 1.9 percent on bargain hunting. Samsung Electronics shares tumbled nearly 7 percent in January.

Food processor Nongshim Co Ltd rose 4.5 percent after raising product prices by an average 7.6 percent, stirring hope for improved earnings in the coming quarters.

Theatre operator CJ CGV Co Ltd advanced 3.2 percent as its earnings outlook brightened on increased ticket sales so far this year.

Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) fell 1 percent after Odin Holdings Co Ltd on Monday said it would offload its 5 percent stake in the aircraft maker, selling up to $143 million worth of shares.

The day's worst performers so far included real-estate leaser Hanjinkal Corp, which tumbled 5 percent as some investors consolidated profit following a 41.8 percent surge in the share price last month spurred by a rosy growth outlook.

Overall, offshore investors sold a net 47 billion won ($43.8 million) worth of KOSPI shares as of the middle of the trading session. Institutional and retail investors net purchased a combined 41 billion won.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks and the junior KOSDAQ both traded flat. ($1 = 1074.3000 Korean won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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