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Seoul: Shares fall ahead of US jobs data; won holds steady


[SEOUL] South Korean shares opened higher but quickly retreated on Friday as investors grew cautious ahead of US jobs data which could offer clues on whether the Federal Reserve will start raising interest rates later this month.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was down 0.5 per cent at 1,905.26 points as of 0212 GMT after opening 0.3 per cent higher after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi hinted at additional stimulus measures for the euro zone.

Losers outnumbered gainers by 3.1 to 1.

Investors were cautious ahead of US non-farm payrolls data that may figure in the Federal Reserve's decision about when to raise interest rates. "Sentiment improved when the markets opened higher, thanks to Draghi's comments, and then now investors are refocusing on the timing of Fed's rate hike," said Min Byung-kyu, a market analyst at Yuanta Securities.

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Min noted that if the Federal Reserve starts to normalise interest rates later in the month it could be good news for the market by easing policy uncertainties.

Foreigners were set to extend their selling spree into the 22nd straight session, selling 30.2 billion won (S$35.9 million) worth of shares in the main board.

Market bellwether Hyundai Motor Co Ltd slipped 1.3 per cent, while market heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co Ltd gained 1 per cent.

South Korea's largest logistics CJ Korea Express Corp rose 4.5 per cent after it said it was in final talks to acquire China's Rokin Logistics.

In currency markets, the won remained flat on the dollar ahead of the US data.

The won was quoted at 1,191.7 per dollar, barely changed from the previous close of 1,190.3. "The won could be in the box pattern around 1,188 to 1,195 today," said Jung Sung-yoon, a foreign-exchange analyst at Hyundai Futures. "Decoupling monetary policy between the US and the euro zone would give momentum to the greenback in the long run considering the comments from the ECB last night," Mr Jung added.

September futures on three-year treasury bonds were up 0.06 points at 109.64.