February 6, 2014 / 2:40 AM / 4 years ago

Seoul shares rise on upbeat earnings, ECB meeting in focus

* KOSPI shines among regional peers on upbeat earnings

* Naver Corp lights up sluggish Q4 earnings season

* STX Corp, STX Heavy tumble as affiliate suspended from trading

SEOUL, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Seoul shares rose on Thursday morning, buoyed by encouraging earnings from index heavyweights such as Naver Corp and Lotte Chemical, lifting risk sentiment before the closely-watched European Central Bank meeting later in the day.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.9 percent at 1,908.35 points as of 0210 GMT.

“Naver’s better-than-expected earnings provided the cheer that the market was in need of, considering how low-key the market has been due to overlapping woes stemming from all around the globe,” said Kim Byung-yeon, an analyst at Woori Investment & Securities.

Naver Corp, the country’s largest search portal operator and sixth-largest component in KOSPI, soared 8.1 percent on the back of an upbeat fourth quarter earnings report released before the market open.

The company in a regulatory filing said it had recorded an operating profit of 154.3 billion won ($143.15 million), above the market consensus of 137.6 billion won.

Analysts said that depending on the outcome of the ECB meeting and U.S. non-farm payrolls data, the upbeat sentiment could carry over to the following week.

Bets on the ECB taking accommodative action on Thursday have increased since data showed inflation slipped back to that level in January, while U.S. hiring is more likely to have snapped back from a three-year low in January.

Advancers outnumbered decliners 490 to 272, with a large portion of market heavyweights mostly in positive territory.

Lotte Chemical Corp advanced 2.5 percent after it reported better-than-expected October-December quarter earnings on Wednesday.

Index-giant Samsung Electronics Co Ltd gained 1.6 percent after it lost nearly 5.5 percent over six days of falls.

Meanwhile, STX Corp and STX Heavy Industries Co Ltd plummeted 8.5 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively, as its cash-strapped affiliate raised concerns.

The Korea Exchange (KRX) suspended trading of STX Offshore & Shipbuilding Co Ltd shares on Thursday, asking the company to send in a regulatory filing by 6 p.m. local time regarding its financial situation, as its debts were seen to have outweighed its assets.

Foreign investors sold a net 15.4 billion won ($14.3 million) worth of KOSPI shares near the mid-session, while institutional investors buttressed the market by purchasing a net 105.2 billion won.

$1 = 1077.9000 Korean won $1 = 1077.9000 Korean won Reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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