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Seoul: Shares augment gains on China growth data; won slips


[SEOUL] South Korean shares rose on Tuesday as investors looked forward to additional stimulus measures from the European Central Bank (ECB) and data showed slightly better-than-expected Chinese economic growth in late 2014.

China's economy expanded 7.3 per cent in the fourth quarter, a shade higher than forecasts but still at its weakest growth pace since the last financial crisis, preserving expectations of further monetary easing.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) climbed 0.81 per cent at 1,917.96 points as of 0210 GMT.

Samsung Electronics shares were up 0.8 per cent after a senior executive told reporters that the tech giant had been mulling a stock split for some time, although no concrete decisions have been made.

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Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) outperformed the broader market, surging 7.1 percent after several brokerages tipped South Korea's largest utility to post better-than-expected fourth quarter profits.

"Increased output from base load facilities as a percentage of total generation yields has lowered costs, and cheaper LNG prices will also help further down the road," said Korea Investment & Securities in a note KOSDAQ-listed NHN Entertainment, a subsidiary of Naver, plunged 6 per cent amid uncertainty over new business ventures plus falling revenue in its gaming division.

The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks rose 0.93 per cent and the junior, tech-heavy KOSDAQ edged up 0.13 per cent.

Market players await the ECB's policy rate meeting on Thursday, where it is widely expected to unveil bolder stimulus measures to support the euro zone's flagging economy.

The South Korean won retreated against the dollar on Tuesday, as investors became wary of intervention by financial authorities as the Japanese yen lost significant ground against the greenback.

The yen/won cross rate was last seen at 9.1673, creeping towards a six-year low.

"The yen is the main driver of movements in the won, but with the US market closed for a holiday as well as exporter demand lining up, the dollar/won pair remains heavy," said Hong Seok-chan, a foreign exchange strategist at Daishin Economic Research Institute.

The local currency was quoted at 1,084.5 to the dollar as of 0210 GMT, compared to 1,077.3 at the end of Monday's session.

March futures on three-year treasury bonds shed 1 basis points to trade at 108.49.