Seoul: Shares rally on Fed comments; won flat

[SEOUL] South Korean shares rallied on Friday, tracking sharp overnight gains as Wall Street welcomed the US Federal Reserve's reassuring remarks on the timing of its next interest rate hike.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 1.58 pe ent at 1,927.50 points as of 0225 GMT, poised to snap a four-day losing streak.

The main index had declined in eight of the last nine sessions en route to a 4.5 per cent slide for the period, battered by a collapse in oil prices and financial turmoil in Russia.

"The change in the Fed's policy statement highlights a shift from a time-focused decision on rate normalisation to a more data-dependant one," said James Huh, an economist at Samsung Securities.

"But they were clear to emphasise that the wording change was still in line with their basic guidance on rates, a dovish footnote to minimize any shock in the markets," he said.

Broad gains were seen across the board, as winning shares outnumbered losers more than 2 to 1.

Samsung Electronics, South Korea's most valuable firm accounting for 15 per cent of the KOSPI's market capitalisation, rallied 4 per cent on hopes of higher dividend payouts and recovering profits.

Cheil Industries surged 11 per cent, having already doubled the listing price in a successful market debut on Thursday, South Korea's largest IPO in four years.

Energy counters bucked trends to underperform the wider market as oil prices resumed their fall, with LG Chem sliding 1.3 per cent while Lotte Chemical shed 0.6 per cent.

The South Korean won was nearly flat on Friday after wandering across a narrow range, as investors awaited further cues before the outcome of Bank of Japan's policy meeting.

The local currency was quoted at 1,101.4 to the dollar as of 0225 GMT, compared to Thursday's close of 1,101.5.

March futures on three-year treasury bonds added 2 basis points to trade at 107.88.


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