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Seoul: Stocks close steady as investors watch progress in trade talks

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[SEOUL] South Korea's Kospi stock index ended flat on Thursday as investors awaited the outcome of Sino-US trade talks and the second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The South Korean won fell while bond yields were steady.

The Kospi closed down 0.04 points at 2,203.42. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that he and other US officials will travel to Beijing next week for trade talks, aiming to clinch a deal to avert a March 2 increase in US tariffs on Chinese goods.

Shares of South Korean firms with exposure to North Korea jumped after US President Donald Trump confirmed summit schedule with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Ilshin Stone soared 24.8 per cent, while Hi Steel rose 5 per cent.

Foreigners were net buyers of 169.36 billion won worth of shares on the main board. They were net buyers for an eighth consecutive session. The won was quoted at 1,124.1 per dollar on the onshore settlement platform, 0.47 per cent weaker than its previous close at 1,118.8.

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In offshore trading, the won was quoted at 1,123.9 per US dollar, down 0.3 per cent from the previous day, while in one-year non-deliverable forwards it was being transacted at 1,108.15 per dollar. 

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was up 0.09 per cent, after US stocks ended the previous session with mild losses. Japanese stocks weakened 0.59 per cent.

The Kospi is up around 8.0 per cent so far this year, and up by 6.85 per cent in the previous 30 trading sessions. The current price-to-earnings ratio is 12.10, the dividend yield is 1.28 per cent and the market capitalisation is 1,242.04 trillion won. 

The trading volume during the session on the Kospi index was 421.84 million shares and, of the total traded issues of 898, the number of advancing shares was 486. 

The US dollar has risen 0.95 per cent against the won this year. The won's high for the year is 1,108.67 per dollar on Jan 31 and low is 1,133.4 on Jan 21. In money and debt markets, March futures on three-year treasury bonds fell 0.01 point to 109.28. 

The South Korean three-month Certificate of Deposit rate was quoted at 1.86 per cent, while the most liquid three-year Korean treasury bond yielded 1.804 per cent, barely changed from 1.804 per cent in the previous session.

REUTERS