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[SEOUL] South Korean shares fell on Tuesday, weighed by sharp losses in commodity-linked counters as oil prices resumed falls to plumb 5-1/2 lows.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.17 per cent at 1,917.66 points as of 0200 GMT.
Oil refiners and petrochemical shares underperformed, with SK Innovation sliding 3 per cent and LG Chem falling 2.2 per cent.
With the earnings season underway, investors are bracing for a shock as they worry over the impact of prolonged weakness in oil prices on fourth-quarter results.
"A significant drop in earnings look to be unavoidable at this point given the sharp inventory losses which appear likely extend into the first-quarter as well," said E-Trade Securities analyst Han Seung-jae, in regards to SK Innovation's earnings forecast.
Shares in Hyundai Glovis plunged by the daily bourse limit of 15 per cent after a failed US$1.25 billion stake sale in the logistics affiliate of Hyundai Motor .
Shares in auto-parts maker Hyundai Mobis surged more than 11 percent with investors betting on expectations that the succession process at Hyundai Motor Group may be gaining traction, despite its unsuccessful attempt to find buyers for the Glovis stake.
Hyundai Mobis is now the fifth-largest listing on the KOSPI by market capitalization following the sharp rally, helping to push the KRX Automobile sub-index up 3.1 per cent, outperforming the wider bourse.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks rose 0.12 per cent while the junior, small-cap heavy KOSDAQ gained 0.34 per cent.
The South Korean won erased early losses to hold level against the dollar on Tuesday, as a safe-haven rally in the Japanese yen tempered worries over possible intervention by the financial authorities.
The won was quoted at 1,081.1 to the dollar as of 0200 GMT, virtually flat compared the 2-month closing high of 1,081.4 seen at the end of Monday's session.
March futures on three-year treasury bonds was trading flat at 108.58.
Yields on South Korean bonds for all maturities fell to record-lows on Monday after President Park Geun-hye's comments on interest rate policy added to expectations of a rate cut, despite a presidential aide later clarifying that Park's comments were misinterpreted.
South Korea's central bank will hold a monthly policy meeting on Thursday, and is widely expected to leave its key interest rate unchanged, although many analysts were predicting a rate cut within the next five months.