* KEPCO gains on plan to head off potential blackouts
* Brokerages down on investment banking bill delay
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Seoul shares inched down on Friday morning as investors remained cautious due to the U.S. fiscal stand-off and the euro zone’s return to recession.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was 0.2 percent lower at 1,867.42 points as of 0154 GMT, losing more ground after closing at its lowest level since Aug. 3 on Thursday.
“There isn’t any particular momentum other than overseas concerns, such as the U.S. fiscal cliff and European contraction,” said Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities. “The index is expected to trade relatively flat.”
Asian shares steadied on Friday after falling nearly 2 percent this week amid concerns about the looming U.S. fiscal showdown.
Blue-chips were mixed, with tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics losing 0.8 percent, while Hyundai Motor gained 1.7 percent.
Shares in state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) gained 0.7 percent as South Korea unveiled a plan to secure extra power capacity and head off potential blackouts after the closure of two nuclear reactors.
“The closure of nuclear plants is a temporary issue, which investors have already taken into account,” said Yang Ji-hwan, an utilities analyst at Daishin Securities. “Based on 2013 earnings forecasts, KEPCO shares are undervalued with a price-to-book ratio of 0.3.”
Securities brokerages lost ground as a bill to bolster investment banking operations in local brokerages was stalled in a parliamentary subcommittee on Thursday, decreasing the likelihood of approval before parliament’s current session ends.
Among small- and mid-cap shares, SM Entertainment Co fell 9 percent, extending steep declines of the last two sessions after the K-POP record label’s third-quarter operating profit fell far below market forecasts.
By contrast, rival YG Entertainment Inc gained 3 percent as analysts forecast strong earnings growth next year driven by new album releases and concerts by artists such as “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy.
Foreign investors net sold 35.2 billion won ($32.4 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session, weighing on the index. Declining shares outnumbered winners 531 to 244.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was down 0.2 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ slid 1.3 percent. ($1 = 1086.8200 Korean won) (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Chris Gallagher)