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Seoul: Shares flat as virus curbs offset vaccine cheer

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[SEOUL] South Korean shares ended flat on Thursday as US lockdown measures to curb the spread of coronavirus weighed on positive vaccine news, and as local infections continued to spike. The Korean won weakened, while the benchmark bond yield rose.

By 6.30am GMT, the benchmark Kospi rose just 1.49 points or 0.06 per cent to 2,547.13.

South Korea on Thursday kicked off two weeks of special coronavirus prevention period as country's daily infections continue to spike ahead of the highly competitive annual college entrance exam.

Concerns about resurgence of virus worldwide caused some investors to offload local shares, and they are increasingly seeing this to cloud global economic outlook, said Seo Sang-young, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities.

New York City's public school system, the nation's largest, called a halt to in-classroom instruction on Wednesday, citing a jump in coronavirus infection rates, as the US death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed a grim new milestone of 250,000 lives lost.

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Pfizer and BioNTech could secure emergency US and European authorisation for their Covid-19 vaccine next month after final trial results showed it had a 95 per cent success rate and no serious side effects, the drugmakers said on Wednesday.

Shares of Samsung Electronics fell 0.31 per cent, Posco declined 1.05 per cent.

Foreigners were net buyers of 107.7 billion won (S$130.6 million) worth of shares on the main board. Foreigners were net buyers for the 11th straight session, their longest buying spree since January 2017.

The won was quoted at 1,115.6 per US dollar on the onshore settlement platform, 1.06 per cent lower than its previous close at 1,103.8.

South Korea's central bank was suspected of buying US dollars on Thursday to stem the won's gain, after finance minister Hong Nam-ki said the won's recent gains seem excessive and vowed to stabilise currency market as needed.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.51 per cent.

The Kospi has risen 15.9 per cent so far this year, and gained 7.6 per cent in the previous 30 trading sessions.

The most liquid three-year Korean treasury bond yield rose by 0.1 basis point to 0.952 per cent, while the benchmark 10-year yield rose by 0.2 basis point to 1.604 per cent.

REUTERS

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