Seoul shares bounce back as U.S. data spurs bargain hunting

Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:23pm EDT

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SEOUL, March 21 (Reuters) - Seoul shares rebounded in early Friday trade as improving U.S. economic data drew out bargain hunters and countered earlier concerns about Federal Reserve policy.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.6 percent at 1,931.68 points as of 0152 GMT, on track for its first weekly gain in March.

On Thursday, Seoul shares fell to their lowest close in six weeks after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen spoke of a possible earlier-than-expected U.S. interest rate hike.

"The index is pushing for a rebound as investors appear to be more accepting of the fact that the Fed's rate-hike is simply a step towards normalisation in the U.S. economy," said Lee Sun-yeop, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp.

Supporting investor sentiment were U.S. economic indicators out on Thursday.

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits hovered near three-month lows last week while factory activity in the Mid-Atlantic region rebounded this month, suggesting the economy is regaining strength after being hobbled by severe weather.

Lee, however, added that the index's rebound is seen short-lived as foreign investors continue to step away from emerging stocks due to uncertainty surrounding the Chinese economy.

Offshore investors net sold 27.7 billion won ($25.7 million) of KOSPI shares in mid-session trade, with the market headed for a 10th straight session of net-selling.

The majority of stocks were up, with advancers outnumbering decliners 403 to 168.

Hyundai Motor Co, the second-largest component in KOSPI, and affiliate Kia Motors Corp advanced 1.7 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd rose 2.2 percent and Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co Ltd added 1 percent.

Other noticeable names on the rise were DRAM chipmaker SK Hynix Inc and train manufacturer Hyundai Rotem Co , which gained 3.7 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.

Bucking the trend was the country's top mobile carrier SK Telecom Co Ltd, slipping 1.2 percent after failing to provide service to its customers for hours on Thursday evening. The company has said it will offer compensation in the near future.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.6 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ added 0.8 percent. ($1 = 1076.2000 Korean Won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Ryan Woo)

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