* Foreigners, institutions weigh on KOSPI
* Demand dented by weak U.S. manufacturing, housing data
* Investors eye Fed minutes out later on Wednesday
By Christine Kim
SEOUL, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Seoul shares fell early on Wednesday after weak U.S. data dented risk sentiment, with investors watching closely from the sidelines ahead of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s January policy meeting coming out later in the global day.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.4 percent at 1,938.64 points as of 0150 GMT.
Foreigners and institutions weighed on the local stock market with net selling for a second day after data showed U.S. homebuilder confidence suffered its largest-ever one-month drop in February.
Separate data showed a gauge of manufacturing in New York state slowed in February, further chilling the mood, investors said.
“The market will go through a correction on Wednesday after the weak U.S. manufacturing and housing data and ahead of the Fed minutes release,” IBK Securities in Seoul said in a note to clients.
“Recent data figures from the U.S. have been stagnant and investors will zone in on clues on the economy from the minutes, especially on future stimulus tapering.”
Offshore investors were net sellers of 87.3 billion won ($81.92 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session, while institutions sold a net 13.8 billion won worth.
Decliners outnumbered advancers 436 to 331.
Transportation and electronics led the fall, with market heavyweight Samsung Electronics slipping around half a percent in midday.
Hyundai Motor Co was down 1.3 percent.
Outperforming the bourse was Hyundai Engineering & Construction, up 1.4 percent after a consortium led by the construction company won a $6 billion Iraq refinery order.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was down 0.6 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ rose 0.5 percent. ($1 = 1065.7000 Korean won) (Editing by Eric Meijer)