* Muted reaction to early morning N.Korea rocket launch
* China Q1 growth expectations, U.S. data bolster optimism
* Central bank holds interest rate for 10th-straight month
By Joonhee Yu
SEOUL, April 13 Seoul shares climbed more than 1
percent on Friday as investors shrugged off a North Korean
rocket launch that South Korean officials said had failed,
helping the KOSPI index scale back above the psychologically
significant 2,000-point chart level.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI)
was up 1.18 percent at 2,010.06 points by 0100 GMT.
South Korean government officials and other sources said
Pyongyang's much-hyped and internationally-condemned long-range
rocket apparently crashed into the sea a few minutes after
lift-off on Friday morning, prior to Seoul's share market
South Korean Vice Finance Minister Shin Je-yoon said on
Friday the government was closely watching financial markets
following North Korea's rocket launch and would act to stabilise
them if necessary.
Prior to and after the launch, analysts said the event would
have little to no impact on the local financial markets.
"The market has shown little tendency to react in any
noticeable way from other provocative actions conducted by North
Korea in the past, and it remains the same way today," said Lee
Young-gon, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.
"If the rocket launch triggers a more serious
military-related response then it is a different story, but the
launch itself has little significance and the market has already
been aware and exposed to the news since North Korea announced
its intention to launch last month," he added.
Markets also took in stride South Korea's central bank
holding interest rates steady for a 10th consecutive month on
Friday, as expected, after recent data relieved some concerns
about high inflation and slow economic growth.
Investors instead rode on optimism that China's
first-quarter economic growth may surprise forecasters by coming
in as high as 9 percent, traders said.
Other data showed that the U.S. trade deficit shrank 12.4
percent to $46 billion in February, the biggest month-to-month
decline since May 2009, the Commerce Department said, as exports
hit a record high.
Shipyards led the broad rally, as Daewoo Shipbuilding &
Marine Engineering soared 5.7 percent while Samsung
Heavy Industries climbed 4.6 percent.
Builders also lent support, as Samsung Engineering
rose 4.8 percent while Hyundai Engineering &
Construction advanced 3.3 percent.
Some defensive issues struggled to buck wider trends, as SK
Telecom, South Korea's largest mobile service
provider, edged down 0.4 percent while tobacco-maker KT&G
slid 2.6 percent.
(Reporting by Joonhee Yu; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)