(Updates to mid-morning)
* KOSPI ticks higher alongside regional markets
* Automakers rally after a long struggle on weaker yen
* Institutional investors net buyers, support main index
SEOUL, Dec 20 Seoul shares rose on Friday
morning, with battered automakers such as Hyundai Motor lifted
by bargain hunting while investors assessed the Federal
Reserve's decision to unwind stimulus.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up
0.2 percent at 1,979.88 points by 0200 GMT.
The KOSPI is on track for a weekly gain of 0.8 percent, its
first in three weeks.
"Despite shedding uncertainty, the Fed's decision led to the
greenback's firming against currencies, indirectly affecting the
won/yen currency rate to hurt risk sentiment," said Han Beom-ho,
an analyst at Shinhan Investment & Securities.
Much of the uncertainty regarding the Fed's tapering was
alleviated after it announced it would trim its monthly bond
purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion, beginning in January.
Concerns over a sharply depreciating yen, however, have
replaced worries about tapering, with the yen hitting a more
than 5-year low against the won and risking local
exporters' price competitiveness against their Japanese rivals
in overseas markets.
The South Korean Supreme Court's ruling on Wednesday that
fixed bonuses should be included in the calculation of regular
wages also hurt sentiment, threatening to raise labour costs for
companies that could affect profits.
The recently battered auto industry managed to post a sharp
rebound on bargain hunting by the mid-session.
Hyundai Motor Co rose 2 percent after falling
more than 11.3 percent so far this month. Affiliate Kia Motors
Corp gained 1.7 percent while Ssangyong Motor Co Ltd
added 2.1 percent.
Hanwha Chemical Corp advanced 3.2 percent on an
improved earnings outlook after signing a letter of intent (LOI)
to build a petrochemical plant in Iraq on Thursday.
Meanwhile, bucking the trend were search portal operator
Naver Corp and online game developer NCsoft Corp
, which slipped 1 percent and 2.5 percent,
Institutional investors were net purchasers of 81 billion
won ($76.41 million) worth of KOSPI shares near the mid-session,
while foreigners added a net 25.5 billion won to support the
Advancers outnumbered decliners 394 to 338.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.3
percent, while the junior KOSDAQ gained 0.6 percent.
($1 = 1060.1000 Korean won)
(Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)