* China data fuels concerns about pace of economic recovery
* Doosan E&C tumbles on rights issue speculation
SEOUL Feb 1 Seoul shares started February trade
on a weak note after China's official purchasing managers' index
missed expectations, while builders fell on concerns over the
lacklustre property sector.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ticked
0.7 percent lower to 1,947.89 points as of 0203 GMT on Friday,
after opening up 0.14 percent.
China's official PMI eased to 50.4 in January, missing
market expectations and underscoring that the economy is making
only a mild recovery from its weakest year since 1999.
"The latest China data weakened expectations about the pace
of its economic recovery," said Park Sung-hoon, an analyst at
Woori Investment & Securities.
"But the downside will be limited for the domestic stock
market, which is attractive in terms of valuations, after having
underperformed the U.S. and other markets," he said.
But a separate survey showed growth in China's manufacturing
sector hit a two-year in January, pointing to the recovery
momentum slowly gaining traction.
South Korea's exports in January grew at the fastest pace in
11 months but a private survey showed that manufacturing
activity shrank marginally, underscoring weak underlying
Builders slipped after speculation that Doosan Engineering &
Construction may issue new shares re-ignited jitters
about the sluggish housing market. The builder was asked by the
bourse operator to clarify the market rumours by 0900 GMT.
Doosan Engineering & Construction dived 10.3 percent, while
its top shareholder Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction
slumped 6.4 percent.
Defensive, domestic-focused stocks defied market falls, with
Korea Electric Power firming 2.8 percent and Korea
Gas up 1.8 percent.
Among heavyweights, Samsung Electronics declined
1.3 percent, while Hyundai Motor extended gains,
inching up 0.3 percent.
(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Seong-won
Chang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)