January 10, 2014 / 3:00 AM / 4 years ago

Seoul shares hit 4-wk low on earnings worries; US jobs data eyed

* Shipbuilders Hyundai Heavy, Samsung Heavy sink

* S-Oil, Hanjin Group units rise on stake sale news

SEOUL, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Seoul shares fell to their lowest level in more than four months on Friday, dragged down by worries about the outlook for corporate earnings, while overseas investors were reluctant to buy ahead of the U.S. jobs data due later in the day.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.7 percent at 1,932.34 points as of 0250 GMT after touching an intraday low of 1,931.54, the lowest since Sept. 4.

“The market outlook in the near future isn’t bright at all,” said Lee Jae-hoon, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities. “It has lost much attraction as glum corporate earnings results seem inevitable and a (further) Federal Reserve quantitative easing cut becomes more likely.”

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s disappointing preliminary earnings and the won’s strength against the yen have unnerved investors ahead of the October-December earnings season, which will kick off later in the month.

The U.S. nonfarm payroll data due later in the day is expected to provide insight on whether the Federal Reserve will scale back its stimulus more quickly.

Foreign investors were hesitant to pick up local stocks before the release of the U.S. jobs data. They sold a net 81.1 billion won ($76 million) worth of KOSPI shares near midsession, after four days of net buying.

Shipbuilders suffered from foreign investors’ selling on concerns about weak October-December quarter earnings due to increased one-off bonus payments. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd plunged 5.7 percent and Samsung Heavy Industries Co Ltd dropped 5.2 percent.

One bright spot was crude oil refiner S-oil Corp , which jumped 5.5 percent after majority shareholder Saudi Aramco decided to purchase Hanjin Group’s 27 percent stake of S-Oil to hold a total 62 percent stake, raising hopes of increased dividends in the longer term.

The news also pushed up units of Hanjin Group, with Korean Air Lines Co Ltd advancing 2.8 percent and Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd gaining 1.9 percent.

Decliners outnumbered advancers 495 to 274.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks and the junior KOSDAQ both fell 0.7 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile China, South Korea’s biggest export market, reported its December trade figures on Friday which were weaker than expected, adding to concerns that the world’s second-largest economy is on slower growth course. ($1 = 1062.6000 Korean won) (Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

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