(LEAD) Seoul shares close lower amid growing Middle East tension; won at 17-month low

South Korean stocks fell 0.42 percent Monday due to heightened geopolitical uncertainties in the Middle East following Iran's recent drone and missile attacks on Israel. The Korean won fell sharply against the U.S. dollar. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index plunged 11.39 points, or 0.42 percent, to close at 2,670.43, after falling as low as 2,641.16 at one point. Trade volume was moderate at 552 million shares worth 10.3 trillion won (US$7.45 billion), with decliners outpacing gainers 580 to 302. Foreigners offloaded a net 238 billion won, while individuals scooped up a net 247 billion won. Institutions sold a net 26 billion won. Investors avoided risky assets after Iran conducted the attack over the weekend in retaliation for Israel's airstrike on Iran's diplomatic complex in Syria earlier this month. "The main focus of concern is on Israel's future course of response," said Choi Bo-won, a researcher at Korea Investment and Securities. "While any immediate retaliation is expected to be del ayed, it will take some time for the market to be relieved." Oil refiners gained ground amid hopes for higher petrochemical product prices, with S-Oil rising 1.65 percent to 79,900 won. Air carriers, on the other hand, lost ground due to concerns over geopolitical uncertainties, with Korean Air Lines falling 0.98 percent to 20,300 won and its smaller rival Asiana Airlines decreasing 3.32 percent to 10,470 won. Top tech giant Samsung Electronics moved down 1.79 percent to 82,200 won, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix added 0.43 percent to 188,200 won. Battery makers closed mixed, with LG Energy Solution rising 0.4 percent to 373,000 won while Samsung SDI lost 1.75 percent to 394,000 won. The local currency ended at 1,384 won against the greenback, down 8.6 won from the previous session's close. It marked the lowest level since the 1,384.9 won posted in November 2022. Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys added 3.7 basis points to 3.44 percent, and the r eturn on the benchmark five-year government bonds gained 4 basis points to 3.494 percent. Source: Yonhap News Agency