Seoul shares touch 3-week low as China worries persist

Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:18pm EDT

* Investors worried about fallout from slowing China growth

* Chemical, steel shares down on earnings worries

* Foreigners taking money out for 3rd straight day

By Se Young Lee

SEOUL, March 12 (Reuters) - Seoul shares fell in early domestic trade Wednesday, touching a near-three week low as persisting worries about China's economic growth outlook cut appetites for riskier assets.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 1.2 percent at 1,939.86 points as of 0215 GMT. The index earlier traded as low as 1,938.60, its weakest level since Feb. 20.

A sharper-than-expected slowdown in China would likely hurt earnings of major local manufacturers, as the world's second-largest economy is South Korea's biggest exports market.

"Investors have yet to shake their concerns about corporate debt default and shadow banking" in China, said E-Trade Investment analyst Choi Kwang-hyeok.

Foreigners were net sellers of local stocks on Wednesday, and were on track for a third consecutive session of outflows.

Shares of steelmakers and chemical producers were broadly lower as concern about China's economy continued to raise worries about companies' performance. Lotte Chemical Corp. was down 4.7 percent while Hyundai Steel Co. was off 2.8 percent.

Worries about the global economic recovery also hurt shipbuilders. Shares of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. were down 3.7 percent, while shares of Samsung Heavy Industries Co. were 2.8 percent lower.

Decliners outnumbered advancers 649 to 138.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was down 1.3 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ was 1.2 percent lower. (Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

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