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Seoul: Stocks plunge on China's weak export data; won hits 4-month low

[SEOUL] South Korea's Kospi stock index plunged on Friday as China's weak export data frightened investors on concerns over global economic slowdown, a day after European policymakers slashed growth forecasts for the bloc. Both the South Korean won and the benchmark bond yields fell.

China's exports tumbled the most in three years in February while imports fell for a third straight month, pointing to a further slowdown in the economy despite a spate of support measures.

European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi said the economy was in "a period of continued weakness and pervasive uncertainty" as he pushed out a planned rate hike and instead offered banks a new round of cheap loans.

The benchmark index closed down 28.35 points, or 1.31 per cent, to 2,137.44 points, hitting its lowest trading level since January 24. Seoul's stock market main index fell for the sixth straight session, its longest losing streak since early October, 2018. For the week, Kospi tumbled 2.6 per cent, its biggest weekly loss since October 2018.

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Shares of S-Oil Corp, South Korea's third-biggest refiner, dipped 5.6 per cent, hitting a two-month low after the company announces lower-than-expected dividend.

South Korea's leading mobile messenger operator Kakao Corp gained 2.9 per cent, after its unit Kakao Mobility struck a deal with taxi unions for limited-hours carpool.

State-funded Korea Development Bank said it signed main deal with Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd, the world's biggest shipbuilding group, to sell Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd which sent the shares of Hyundai Heavy down 3.8 per cent.

Foreigners were net sellers of 460.8 billion won worth of shares on the main board.

The won was quoted at 1,136.2 per dollar on the onshore settlement platform, 0.63 per cent lower than its previous close at 1,129.0 to its lowest since November, 2018. The currency fell 1.0 per cent on a weekly basis, while marking its biggest weekly loss since October 2018.

In offshore trading, the won was quoted at 1,135.7 per US dollar, down 0.2 per cent from the previous day, while in one-year non-deliverable forward trading its one-month contract was quoted at 1,134.9 per dollar.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 1.37 per cent, after US stocks ended the previous session with losses. Japanese stocks fell 2.01 per cent.

The Kospi has risen 4.72 per cent so far this year, and rose 2.0 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 308.82 million shares and, of the total traded issues of 896, the number of advancing shares was 241.

The won has lost 1.8 per cent against the US dollar this year.

In money and debt markets, March futures on three-year treasury bonds rose 0.07 point to 109.26, while the three-month Certificate of Deposit rate was quoted at 1.89 per cent.

The most liquid three-year Korean treasury bond yield fell by 1.5 basis points to 1.802 per cent, while the benchmark 10-year yield fell by 3.0 basis points to 1.973 per cent. 

REUTERS