* Samsung Elec up for third day nearing record highs
* LG Elec, LG Display down after Tuesday’s gains
* POSCO hits lowest closing levels since March 2009
By Somang Yang
SEOUL, Nov 21 (Reuters) - South Korean shares erased gains from earlier in the day on Wednesday despite Samsung Electronics climbing to its highest level in more than six months, after international lenders failed to clinch a rescue deal on Greece.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed down 0.32 percent at 1,884.04 points, snapping a two-day rally.
“The failure of European Union officials to agree on aid for Greece, as well as the lack of progress to tackle the turmoil in the Gaza Strip is weighing on the index,” said Lim Su-gyun at Samsung Securities.
“The KOSPI is taking a breather while digesting bad news from abroad, but has already bottomed out, and is likely to rebound from here.”
International lenders ended their meeting in the early hours of Wednesday morning without agreement on the next tranche of loans to Greece.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Jerusalem seeking a truce that can hold back Israel’s ground troops while Egypt’s new Islamist government is mediating between Israel and Gaza.
Samsung Electronics, the biggest South Korean firm by market value, rose 1.5 percent to 1.38 million Korean won ($1,300), its highest closing level since May 3.
KDB Daewoo Securities on Wednesday lifted Samsung’s target price to 1.9 million won from 1.65 million won, as well as its earnings estimates for the current quarter and next year, saying it expects the company to solidify its lead in the smartphone market.
The U.S. International Trade Commission also said on Tuesday that it will review a decision that found Apple did not violate patents owned by Samsung in making the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad.
“Investors are hoping that ITC’s decision to review Samsung’s case against Apple means it is on solid footing in its patent battles,” Hong Sung-ho, a tech analyst at IM Investment & Securities.
Other technology shares retreated, with Samsung’s phone rival LG Electronics shedding 3.7 percent, while panel maker LG Display fell by 2.6 percent.
POSCO extended its losses, falling 2.7 percent to its lowest level since March 2 2009. Market watchers are lowering their expectations for the steelmaker’s fourth-quarter earnings.
Investors rushed to defensive plays, sending the consumer index 1.7 percent higher.
Declining shares outnumbered gainers 548 to 271.
Foreign investors bought a net 137 billion Korean won ($126.59 million) worth of KOSPI shares, the biggest volume since Nov. 2. However, this was not enough to offset selling by retail investors and local institutions.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks closed down 0.3 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.9 percent lower.
Move on day -0.32 percent
12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012
12-month low 1,750.60 19 Dec 2011
Change on yr +3.19 percent
All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011
All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981 ($1 = 1082.2750 Korean won) (Additional reporting by Seongwon Chang; Editing by Eric Meijer)