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Seoul: Shares, won nearly flat; US jobs report in focus
[SEOUL] South Korean shares and the local currency held steady early on Friday, as investors awaited the US monthly non-farm payrolls report to be released later in the global day.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.2 per cent at 2,045.57 points as of 0222 GMT. Losers outnumbered gainers by nearly 2-to-1.
The South Korean won treaded water as investors gauged whether the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates in December.
The won was quoted 0.1 per cent firmer at 1,137.4, compared with Thursday's close at 1,138.5.
"Markets are expected to react very sensitively to the jobs report this time around but even if the data diverges a bit from expectations, it will probably have a limited influence on the policy decision itself," said Kang Hyun-gie, a market analyst at Dongbu Securities.
He added that the chances for a December lift-off were now perceived as "live" after Fed officials noted the economy was ready for higher rates.
Pharmaceutical stocks rallied on the main bourse thanks to a deal between Hanmi Pharmaceutical and France's Sanofi to develop experimental, long-acting diabetes treatments. The global licence deal was the biggest for any South Korean pharmaceutical company on record.
Hanmi Pharmaceutical soared 30.0 per cent to 711,000 won, reaching its largest daily percentage gain on the main bourse.
Shares in Jeju Air Co Ltd, the first South Korean budget airline to list, lost 6.3 per cent near mid-session after its market debut on Friday.
Foreign investors sold a net 29.4 billion Korean won (S$36.3 million) worth of KOSPI shares by midday, weighing on the index.
December futures on three-year treasury bonds lost 0.04 points at 109.43.