* KOSPI hits 15-week low amid foreign selling
* Autos tumble, falling prey to profit-locking fits
* Airlines, tour issues hit by weaker won
(Updates to mid-morning)
By Jungyoun Park
SEOUL, May 25 Seoul shares extended losses to
more than 3 percent on Tuesday as North Korea tensions worsened
and renewed euro zone worries pressured investor sentiment,
sending key blue chips such as Hyundai Motor (005380.KS) lower.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index .KS11 (KOSPI) was
down 3.31 percent at 1,551.74 points as of 0208 GMT, after
falling to as low as 1,549.32 points, the lowest level seen since
"Heightened North Korea tensions, at a time when the euro
zone fears already exist, are further fueling negative
sentiment," said Bae Sung-young, a market analyst at Hyundai
"However so far, there have not been major negative responses
such as ratings downgrades due to South Korea's geopolitical
issues. Unless we see further drastic action by the North, such
as a missile launch, market reaction is not likely to be lasting
or dramatic," Bae added.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has ordered his military to
be on a combat footing, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on
South Korea on Monday announced steps to tighten the vice on
the North's already stumbling economy in punishment for sinking
one of its navy ships, and both sides intensified war-like
Foreign investors offloaded 119.4 billion won ($98.37
million) worth of stocks, poised to sell Seoul shares for a
seventh consecutive session.
Shares in automakers lost ground as investors moved to lock
Hyundai Motor dropped 5.42 percent to 131,000 won and Kia
Motors (000270.KS) declined 5.5 percent to 27,500 won.
"Falls are largely due to portfolio re-adjustments as
investors seek to secure shares' gains on the year. They rallied
substantially in April and earlier this month," said Kim
Byung-kook, an analyst at Daishin Securities.
Hyundai Motor shares had gained nearly 15 percent on the year
and Kia Motors 45 percent as of Monday's close, versus the
broader market's 4.6 percent fall.
"Also Kia's exposure to Europe is substantial, and given the
euro zone's current financial issues, sentiment toward its shares
is weak," Kim added.
Airlines and tour issues also tumbled after the won KRW=
fell 4.5 percent against the dollar on Tuesday, prompting
concerns a weaker domestic currency may curb appetite for
Shares in Korean Air Line (003490.KS) fell 5.53 percent and
Asiana Airlines (020560.KS) plunged 10.14 percent.
Major tour agency Hana Tour 039130.KQ lost 6.26 percent,
and Modetour (080160.KQ) shed 9.61 percent.
(Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)