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Seoul: Stocks plunge, triggering Kospi circuit breakers for first time since 2001

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South Korean shares plunged to a near 10-year low on Friday, triggering circuit breakers on the main index for the first time in nearly two decades, as panic over the coronavirus led to a rout in global equities.

[SEOUL] South Korean shares plunged to a near 10-year low on Friday, triggering circuit breakers on the main index for the first time in nearly two decades, as panic over the coronavirus led to a rout in global equities.

The won slid to a four-year low, while the benchmark bond yield soared.

By 0233 GMT, the benchmark Kospi was down 128.68 points, or 7 per cent, at 1,705.65.

It earlier fell as much as 8.2 per cent to the lowest since late 2011, and has lost 22.4 per cent so far this year. The index was set to post the biggest weekly decline since the 2008 financial crisis.

The Korea Exchange activated trading curbs on the local stock market for a second straight day on Friday.

The Bank of Korea said on Friday its seven-member committee was discussing whether to hold a rare inter-meeting review to cut policy interest rates to a new record-low. The bank has not delivered an emergency rate cut since October 2008.

South Korea's FX authorities said they will act to stem any herd-like behaviour in the currency market, while multiple dealers told Reuters that the authorities were suspected to have sold US dollars to curb the won's weakness.

Foreigners were net sellers of 570.6 billion won (S$658.7 million) worth of shares on the mainboard.

The won was quoted at 1,224.3 per US dollar on the onshore settlement platform, 1.5 per cent lower than its previous close of 1,206.5.

In offshore trading, the won was quoted at 1,224.4 per US dollar, down 1.1 per cent from the previous day, while in non-deliverable forward trading its one-month contract was quoted at 1,221.4 per US dollar.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 4.2 per cent, while Japanese stocks fell 8 per cent.

The trading volume during the session in the Kospi index was 473.87 million shares. Of the total traded issues of 904, the number of advancing shares was eight. In money and debt markets, March futures on three-year treasury bonds fell 0.18 points to 111.33.

The most liquid three-year Korean treasury bond yield rose by 7.6 basis points to 1.140 per cent, while the benchmark 10-year yield rose by 12.9 basis points to 1.515 per cent.

REUTERS