[Seoul] South Korean shares tumbled to a fresh 8-month intraday low on Thursday, tracking steep declines in regional peers as equity markets worldwide were hammered by renewed growth concerns after worrying economic data out of the US and China.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.59 per cent at 1,914.63 points as of 0215 GMT, after hitting a session trough that was the lowest February 6.
Data released on Wednesday showed a fall in US retail sales and producer prices last month, taking the shine off of running expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates sooner rather than later.
The worrying data came on the heels of a recent run of soft readings from China, where inflation slowed more than expected in September to set a near five-year low.
"Easing inflation means the Fed will take gradual, cautious step towards a rate hike similar to the timeline of previous tightening cycles," said James Huh, an economist at Samsung Securities in a note to clients.
"The US data marked a broad fall in retail sales across all sectors, but considering the seasonal and one-off factors that are also in play, this is only a temporary spate of volatility and not an overall trend shift," Daishin Securities said in a report.
Big falls on the main bourse saw 13 out of the 17 KOSPI sub-indices languishing in the red, with declining shares outperforming winners nearly 2 to 1.
Key exporters were battered, notably automakers as Hyundai Motor tumbled 4.6 per cent while sister-firm Kia Motors fell 2.9 per cent.
The benchmark KOSPI 200 index of large-cap shares fell 0.72 per cent to underperform the broad market.
Shares in discount store operator E-Mart Co fell more than 3 per cent after announcing a 27.5 per cent decline in third-quarter profits compred to a year ago.
Risk-averse investors took shelter in traditional defensive plays. Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), South Korea's largest utility, soared 4.1 per cent while tobacco-maker KT&G rose 2.2 per cent.
Chipmaker SK Hynix was among the few gainers in the session to buck wider trends, with analysts forecasting healthy demand and stable prices for memory chips.
The South Korean won firmed on Thursday, tracking sharp declines in the dollar as weak economic data fanned worries that the Federal Reserve may delay its first interest rate hike in years.
The local currency was quoted at 1,059.7 to the dollar as of 0215 GMT, compared to Wednesday's session close of 1,063.1.
December futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 6 basis points to trade at 107.68.