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Seoul: Stocks rise for third day, won firms with US dollar on backfoot

[SEOUL] South Korean shares climbed for a third straight day on Thursday on expectations the market will soon test its recent record highs, shaking off weakness on Wall Street overnight.

President Donald Trump's threat on Wednesday to shut down the US government over a funding dispute did weigh on the US dollar, however, supporting the South Korean won and other currencies.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) was up 0.4 per cent at 2,375.98 points as of 0245 GMT, its highest since Aug 9.

The benchmark index is only around 3 per cent away from its all-time closing high on July 24.

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The won was quoted at 1,128.0 to the US dollar, up 0.3 per cent from Wednesday and its strongest intraday level since Aug 8.

"Investors found out that recent market issues like the government's latest housing rules and tensions between North Korea and the United States have not hurt the fundamentals of South Korean economy, and are returning," said Rhoo Yong-Seok, a stock analyst at KB Securities.

Since the highs in late July, the Kospi had slumped 5.4 per cent as local authorities launched the toughest housing cooling measures yet and as tensions flared between North Korea and the United States.

Even so, the Kospi is still one of the best performing stock markets globally in 2017. It has gained 17.2 per cent so far this year, mostly supported by robust exports.

Mr Rhoo said that Seoul bourse could see another strong half as sectors like steel, chemical, and energy would strengthen over the rest of the year.

Offshore investors were set to be net buyers, adding 50.6 billion Korean won (S$61.06 million) worth of Kospi shares near mid-session to their portfolios.

Tech giant Samsung Electronics traded flat ahead a court ruling on Friday in the bribery trial of vice chairman Jay Y Lee.

Lee, 49, has been in detention since February, on trial for charges ranging from embezzlement to perjury in a scandal that prompted the ouster of the country's ex-president Park Geun-Hye.

Samsung set out to wipe the slate clean in New York on Wednesday with its new Galaxy Note 8 "phablet", hoping features like dual rear cameras and its biggest-ever screen will extinguish memories of the device's fire-prone predecessor.

LG Chemical rose 2.3 per cent while Hyundai Motor lost nearly one per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones 422 to 358.

September futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 0.01 point to 109.13.

REUTERS

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