[SEOUL] South Korean shares scaled a 2-1/2 month peak on Monday morning, led by relief buying after Greece and its creditors struck a compromise deal to extend the debt-saddled nation's bailout by four months.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) climbed 0.34 per cent to 1,968.06 points as of 0200 GMT, its highest level since December 9 and just above the index's 120-day moving average of 1,963.87 points.
Monday was the first trading session for South Korean financial markets which were closed from Wednesday through Friday for the Lunar New Year holidays.
"Two critical hurdles were overcome during the break, namely the Greek debt negotiations and dovish hints from the FOMC minutes ... now the path is clear for a relief rally backed by abundant liquidity," said Lee Kyung-min, an analyst at Daishin Securities.
Gains on the main board were broad-based, with 15 out of the 17 major industry sectors tracked by the exchange operator trading in positive territory. Winning shares outnumbered losers more than 3 to 2.
Subsidiaries of Lotte Group surged after the conglomerate was chosen as the preferred bidder for KT Rental Corp, South Korea's largest car rental firm, in a bid estimated at around 900 billion-1 trillion won (US$818-902 million) according to local media.
Lotte Non-Life Insurance Co jumped by the daily bourse limit of 15 per cent while Lotte Shopping rallied 3.4 per cent.
CJ Korea Express bucked the market, tumbling 6.3 per cent after its failed attempt to buy Singapore's APL Logistics, which is being sold to Japan's Kintetsu World Express instead for US$1.2 billion.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks edged up 0.3 per cent while the junior, tech-heavy KOSDAQ rose 0.76 per cent.
The South Korean won retreated on Monday, as investors played catch-up to falls in the local currency's offshore rate during the domestic holidays.
The won was fetching 1,101.1 to the dollar as of 0200 GMT, compared to the previous session close of 1,101.8 on Tuesday last week.
March futures on three-year treasury bonds fell 5 basis points to 108.39.