Seoul shares close lower ahead of FOMC minutes release

SEOUL, South Korean stocks finished lower Wednesday with investors waiting for the release of the minutes of the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) January meeting. The local currency rose against the U.S. dollar. After starting marginally higher, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index lost 4.48 points, or 0.17 percent, to close at 2,653.31. Trade volume was moderate at 551.7 million shares worth 8.9 trillion won (US$6.7 billion), with losers outnumbering winners 553 to 313. Foreigners and retail investors dumped local shares worth 103.1 billion won and 89.98 billion won, respectively, offsetting institutions purchase of 144.2 billion won. Han Ji-young, an analyst at Kiwoon Securities, said cautions grew ahead of the release of the FOMC's January meeting, which is likely to show whether the Federal Reserve is prudent about cutting its rates later this year, and overnight losses on Wall Street sparked by profit taking ahead of Nvidia's fourth quarter earnings announcement affected investo r sentiment. In Seoul, market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 0.41 percent to 73,000 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix dropped 0.4 percent to 149,000 won. Top automaker Hyundai Motor retreated 1.03 percent to 239,500 won, while its smaller affiliate Kia gained 0.6 percent to 116,800 won. Financial shares ended in negative territory. KB Financial Group plunged 4.12 percent to 65,100 won, Shinhan Financial Group went down 0.46 percent to 43,050 won, and Hana Financial Group dipped 0.36 percent to 56,000 won. But battery shares were strong. Leading battery maker LG Energy Solution climbed 0.74 percent to 407,000 won, Samsung SDI jumped 1.27 percent to 400,000 won, and POSCO Future M gained 0.99 percent to 307,500 won. Samsung Life Insurance shot up 8.08 percent on expectations of an increase in shareholder value. The local currency closed at 1,334.70 won against the greenback, up 2.9 won from the previous session's close. Source: Yonhap News Agency