* Market welcomes new Fed chief's testimony
* Hanwha Corp up after court decision on chairman
* GS E&C rises, Daewoo E&C falls after contract in Kuwait
SEOUL, Feb 12 Seoul shares touched an almost
three-week high on Wednesday morning after encouraging comments
by U.S. Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen, while
better-than-expected China trade data aided risk appetites.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up
0.5 percent at 1,940.77 points as of 0226 GMT after hitting an
intraday high of 1,942.23, highest since Jan. 24.
Yellen, testifying on Tuesday before the House Financial
Services Committee, expressing confidence in the U.S. economy
and said recent volatility in global financial markets did "not
pose a substantial risk to the U.S. economic outlook."
The Fed's commitment to continued reduction in
bond-purchasing stimulus "isn't friendly to emerging markets as
it prompts capital outflow, but investors are more focusing on
Yellen's unchanged view of the U.S. economy," said Kim
Byung-yeon, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities.
Kim added that if there's reduced external volatility after
this week's batch of China data and options expiry in Seoul on
Thursday, the domestic market may be expecting gains.
China's exports handily beat expectations in January, rising
10.6 percent from a year earlier, while imports jumped 10
percent, data showed on Wednesday.
Retail investors were net buyers of 53.7 billion won ($50.2
million) of KOSPI shares near mid-session, offsetting offshore
investors' 40.1 billion won of net selling.
Hanwha Corp gained 2.4 percent after group
chairman Kim Seung-youn on Tuesday received a suspended sentence
on a breach of trust charge, dissipating concerns about
ownership. Affiliate Hanwha Chemical rose 2.3
GS Engineering & Construction Corp rose 2.6
percent while Daewoo Engineering & Construction Co Ltd
fell 1.5 percent.
Both companies, in regulatory filings on Wednesday, said
they were awarded a project to improve and expand oil factories
Hyundai Motor Co slipped 1.3 percent as
investors locked in profits following a recent 3 percent gain.
Advancers outnumbered decliners 475 to 295.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.5
percent, while the tech-heavy junior KOSDAQ edged 0.4
($1 = 1070.8500 Korean won)
(Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Richard Borsuk)