Seoul shares steady as investors await Fed decision
* Fed decision, Ukraine, China leave investors cautious
* Foreign investors are net buyers early on Wednesday
By Se Young Lee
SEOUL, March 19 (Reuters) - Seoul shares were little changed on Wednesday morning as investors stayed on the sidelines and awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy decision due later in the day.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.1 percent at 1,939.05 points as of 0233 GMT, following two straight days of gains. The index briefly traded as high as 1,948.15 in early trade, its strongest level since March 12, but soon eased back amid a lack of firm cues.
The Fed is widely expected to continue reducing the size of its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion at the end of its two-day policy meeting, and investors are closely watching for the central bank's forward guidance for clues on future policy.
"At this point there are many variables like Ukraine, China and the FOMC, so I think the market is in a wait-and-see mode rather than actively moving in one direction," said SK Securities analyst Ko Seung-hee.
Investors remained wary about a potential escalation of conflict in Ukraine, although Russian President Vladimir Putin's comment that the country does not plan to take control of any other regions other than Crimea appeared to allay some concerns.
Foreigners were net buyers of South Korean stocks in early trade, following seven consecutive sessions of outflows, though the amount of Wednesday's inflows was small.
Large-cap stocks LG Display Co and Samsung Electronics Co were each down 0.6 percent, giving up some of their gains from the previous day on profit-taking.
But shares of Dongbu Steel Co and Posco rose 2.5 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively, as some investors were hunting for bargains following the steelmakers' recent declines.
Decliners outnumbered advancers 403 to 370.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was down 0.1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ was virtually flat. (Reporting by Se Young Lee; Editing by Chris Gallagher)