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South Korea stocks ease, political probe takes toll on Samsung; won edges up

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[SEOUL] South Korean shares edged down early on Friday as foreign investors sold, snapping their 11-day buying spree, mostly dumping shares in Samsung Electronics out of concern over the fallout from the country's political scandal.

There was also bearish pressure from a weaker Wall Street after US president-elect Donald Trump's failed to offer any insight on his economic policy at a news conference two days ago.

The Bank of Korea held interest rates for a seventh straight month on Friday, as expected, a move that had little impact on the overall market.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.4 per cent at 2,078.16 points as of 0234 GMT.

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"Foreign investors are mainly selling Samsung Electronics shares either to take profits or to stay away from political risks," said Kim Ye-eun, a stock analyst at LIG Investment & Securities.

Samsung Group leader Jay Lee left the South Korean special prosecutor's office early on Friday, more than 22 hours after arriving for questioning on bribery suspicions in an influence-peddling scandal that could topple President Park Geun-hye.

Shares of Samsung Electronics dropped as much as 2.9 per cent, while Samsung C&T was down 0.4 per cent.

Offshore investors offloaded a net 62.8 billion Korean won (US$53.36 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session.

Decliners outnumbered advancers 418 to 368.

The South Korean won strengthened, standing at 1,177.4 against the dollar, up 0.6 per cent compared to Thursday's close of 1,184.7.

March futures on three-year treasury bonds shed 0.06 point to 109.64.

REUTERS

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