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Seoul: Stocks steady amid US-China trade concerns; won slips

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[SEOUL] South Korea's Kospi stock index closed steady on Wednesday amid investor concerns about emerging markets and the latest round of verbal threats in an intensifying US-China trade conflict. The Korean won and bond yields slipped.

South Korea's unemployment rate rose to an eight-year high in August as mandatory minimum wages climbed, worsening the country's economic policy frustrations for President Moon Jae-in whose approval rating is now at its lowest since inauguration. A central bank board member said the inflation rate should reach the target level before the rate hike, dampening expectation of monetary tightening in the near future.

Shares of Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix dropped 1.1 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively, pressured by disappointing outlook for the chip industry. The KOSPI index closed 0.56 points, or 0.02 per cent, lower at 2,282.64.

The won was quoted at 1,128.6 per dollar on the onshore settlement platform, 0.29 per cent weaker than its previous close at 1,125.3. In offshore trading, the won was quoted at 1,128.29 per US dollar, down 0.47 per cent from the previous day, while in one-year non-deliverable forwards it was being transacted at 1,110.95 per dollar.

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MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.23 per cent, after US stocks ended the previous session with mild gains. Japanese stocks weakened 0.27 per cent. The KOSPI is down around 7.5 per cent so far this year, and up by 0.45 per cent in the previous 30 days. 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 329,269,000 shares and, of the total traded issues of 897, the number of advancing shares was 357. Foreigners were net sellers of 367,290 million won worth of shares.

The US dollar has risen 5.81 per cent against the won this year. The won's high for the year is 1,053.55 per dollar on April 2, 2018 and low is 1,140.4 on July 19, 2018. In money and debt markets, September futures on three-year treasury bonds rose 0.09 points to 108.99. The Korean three-month Certificate of Deposit benchmark rate was quoted at 1.65 per cent, while the benchmark three-year Korean treasury bond yielded 1.898 per cent, lower than the previous day's 1.92 per cent, hit by the weakest job data since the financial crisis.

REUTERS