* Easing of Ukraine worries also boosts risk appetite
* Foreign, institutional investors are net buyers
By Christine Kim
SEOUL, March 7 (Reuters) - Seoul shares extended gains into a third session on Friday, buoyed by improving risk appetite following better-than-expected U.S. jobless claims data and as the threat of imminent military conflict in Ukraine eased.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.2 percent at 1,979.52 points as of 0206 GMT. It touched 1,984.53 shortly after the open, its highest since Jan. 3.
The market rose thanks to “a steady rise in employment in the U.S., China’s growth target and easing fears over the situation in Ukraine,” said Kim Yong-goo, an analyst at Samsung Securities.
Kim said, however, that uncertainty over the U.S. and Chinese economies would have to ease further for buying to continue.
Data released on Thursday showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell to a three-month low last week.
Market participants will now look to the U.S. nonfarm payrolls report due later in the global day. Nonfarm payrolls probably increased by 150,000 in February, a Reuters poll showed.
“We’ll probably see a steady rise until April comes, but gains will not be sharp. We don’t know how the Ukraine situation will change and this month the index will likely stay within the 2,020 point level,” Kim added.
For now, investors’ fears over a military clash in Ukraine have subsided somewhat after President Barack Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to accept the terms of a potential diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Foreign investors purchased a net 13.8 billion won ($13 million) worth of KOSPI shares as of midsession, while institutions bought a net 10.1 billion won worth.
KT Corp fell 1.7 percent after media reports on Thursday said that the telecommunications operator’s website had been hacked, resulting in a massive breach of clients’ personal information.
Amorepacific surged 4.4 percent after the cosmetics company forecast it would post high growth this year on the back of its duty-free business.
IT service provider SK C&C Co Ltd jumped 4.8 percent after it said Australia’s Carsales.Com Ltd would acquire a shareholding in the online assets of SK Encar, the provider’s automotive trading business.
Winners outnumbered losers 410 to 352.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.2 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ rose 0.6 percent. ($1 = 1064.1500 Korean won) (Additional reporting by Jungmin Jang; Editing by Chris Gallagher)