* Choppy session driven by sector-specific bets
* Tech, energy down after recent gains; auto shares up
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Jan 7 (Reuters) - South Korean shares closed nearly flat on Monday in a choppy, mixed session as investors took sector-driven bets before the onset of the fourth-quarter corporate earnings reports season.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed down 0.03 percent at 2,011.25 points, losing ground for the third straight session but still holding on to 9-month highs.
“With external factors such as the U.S. fiscal issue comparatively stable, investors were betting according to internal issues in each sector,” said Han Beom-ho, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp.
“Investors shed sectors such as industrial materials that had seen recent gains, while snapping up sectors that had previously slipped.”
Tech shares pared earlier losses but still closed down, with market heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co Ltd falling 0.3 percent ahead of its fourth earnings estimate to be announced on early Tuesday.
Energy & chemical shares lost ground, after increased energy use from unusually cold local weather saw the sector gaining 13 percent in six weeks as of Friday. South Korea’s largest oil refiner SK Innovation Co Ltd dipped 1.9 percent.
But auto shares rose after falling 6.5 percent during the previous week as the weakening yen was expected to benefit Japanese competitors, with Hyundai Motor Co climbing 1.2 percent.
Foreign investors sold a net 41.7 billion won ($39 million) worth of KOSPI shares, weighing on the main board.
Decliners nearly matched gainers 398 to 393.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks closed down 0.1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ climbed 0.8 percent.
Move on day -0.03 percent
12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012
12-month low 1,769.31 25 July 2012
Change on yr -1.0 percent
All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011
All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981 ($1 = 1063.6500 Korean won) (Reporting by Joyce Lee)