* Yen’s retreat bolsters defensive play
* Samsung SDI rise on the back of bullish Tesla sales
* SK Hynix tumble on profit taking
By Jungmin Jang
SEOUL, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Seoul shares moved higher on Wednesday morning after a robust consumer spending report reassured investors the U.S. economy was on a firm footing, but the yen resumed its retreat against the dollar and the won to cap gains.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.4 percent at 1,954.65 points as of 0200 GMT.
“It’s too early to predict whether the improved U.S. consumer spending has actually translated to increase into local exporters’ earnings, but it definitely helped risk sentiment,” said Chang Hee-jong, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.
Wall Street gained overnight on news retail sales rose 0.7 percent in December to beat expectations of 0.3 percent, a sign the U.S. economy was gathering momentum at the end of last year.
But the robust U.S. data put the greenback on the rise, weakening the yen against the won to put investors on the defensive.
Shares in food & beverages and telecoms were on the rise, with Lotte Confectionery Co Ltd and SK Telecom Co Ltd advancing 3.2 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
Secondary battery maker Samsung SDI Co Ltd gained 2.3 percent, tracking Tesla Motors Inc, which rose nearly 16 percent after it blew past initial fourth quarter sales forecast by 20 percent. Samsung SDI and Tesla Motors are currently in talks over a battery technology deal.
STX Heavy Industries Co Ltd rose 4.2 percent on hopes of improved earnings, as the company on Tuesday said it signed a contract worth 100 billion Korean won with Petronas Carigali Iraq Holding B.V. to supply services for the Garraf Gas Treatment Unit Project.
In declining stocks, SK Hynix Inc plunged 4.4 percent as investors consolidated gains from recent price rises that followed a fire at factory at its factory in Wuxi, China. It suffered a drop in DRAM memory chip prices after news its fire-affected Wuxi plant was expected to resume production.
Institutional investors positioned as net sellers, offloading 62 billion Korean won ($52.4 million) worth of KOSPI shares while retail outdid that selling by net purchasing 68.7 billion won of shares.
Advancers outnumbered decliners 461 to 283.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.4 percent, while the tech-heavy junior KOSDAQ edged 0.6 percent higher.