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Seoul: Shares edge down, won steady ahead of key US jobs data

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[SEOUL] Seoul shares edged down on Thursday as foreign selling in local stocks weighed on the main board ahead of key US jobs data that could influence the Federal Reserve's inclination to raise rates in September.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.3 per cent at 2,022.97 points from the previous close at 2,029.76. Gainers slightly outnumbered losers.

Large caps pressed the index down as foreigners appeared uncertain about the market direction ahead of the US data, said Lee Kyung-min, an analyst at Daishin Securities.

Samsung Electronics fell as much as 3.5 per cent to a nine-month low of 1,118,000 won.

"There are concerns over the smartphone market, but today's fall was exaggerated based on its fundamental," said Shinhan Investment analyst Soh hyun-cheol.

Market bellwether Hyundai Motor Co Ltd lost 4.1 per cent to 139,500 won on worries over sales in China.

"Hyundai's loss reflected lukewarm sales data in China released on Wednesday as investors were focused on China's demand downturn recently," said Lee Sang-hyun, an analyst at IBK Securities.

Meanwhile, brokerage shares outperformed the broad market on expectations for higher earnings on growing turnover. The ruling party said it asked the government to consider lowering the securities transaction tax to reflect a series of reductions in the country's policy interest rates since 2012.

Brokerage shares were up 3.8 per cent, with 20 out of 21 issues in the sector rising.

Offshore investors sold a net 50.9 billion won (S$60.15 million) worth of KOSPI shares by midday.

On the currency market, the South Korean won was steady in morning trade ahead of U.S. non-farm payrolls on Friday.

The South Korean won was quoted at 1,172.1 to the dollar, barely changed from the previous close of 1,173.6.

REUTERS