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Seoul: Shares bounce as investors seek bargains; won up


[SEOUL] South Korean shares rose on Thursday as investors took the opportunity to buy into battered stocks, with energy firms leading the bounce.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.4 per cent at 1,853.50 points as of 0223 GMT.

Recently battered energy counters outperformed as investors sought to buy cheap and as crude oil appeared to stabilise from a relentless selloff.

SK Innovation Co Ltd gained 5.1 per cent while S-Oil Corp climbed 3.3 per cent.

Oil prices managed to keep above water in early trading on Thursday after hitting fresh 2003 lows the session before, but analysts said a persistent global glut would keep pressuring markets.

Banking and brokerages stocks also rose 1.5 per cent and 0.9 per cent, respectively, on hopes that economic ties with Iran following the lifting of sanctions would boost trade. Shares in Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd surged 25.1 per cent after a South Korean newspaper reported the firm is considering the sale of bulk shipping business to private equity firm Hahn & Company for about 600 billion won (S$712 million).

Highlighting the still-fragile mood in global markets, foreign investors were poised to extend their selling spree to an 11th straight day, offloading a net 99.5 billion Korean won worth of shares near mid-session.

The South Korean won rose in a choppy morning session, as investors were cautious ahead of the European Central Bank's policy meeting and Friday's domestic fourth-quarter GDP data.

The local currency was quoted at 1,209.5 against the dollar, up 0.4 per cent from the previous close of 1,214.0.

Later in the global day, the ECB is expected to keep all interest rates on hold but highlight increasing growth and inflation risks, raising the prospect of further policy easing later this year.

"The ECB's stimulus measures which may take place later this year could only have a limited impact on the markets unless commodity market sentiment improves," said Jung Kyung-parl, a foreign exchange analyst at Hana Futures.

Mr Jung said oil prices are likely to come under further pressure, and believes it could go below US$20 a barrel.