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Seoul: Stocks, won tentative before domestic, US data; North Korea worries linger

[SEOUL] South Korean shares and won were little changed early on Thursday, shaking off a rebound in US stocks, as investors were cautious of North Korean risks and held their bets ahead of looming domestic and US economic data.

Traders shrugged off a widely-predicted decision by the Bank of Korea to hold its benchmark rate at record-low 1.25 per cent.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) was down 0.1 per cent at 2,369.54 points as of 0138 GMT.

The won fetched 1,124.5 to the US dollar, almost unchanged from Wednesday's close of 1,124.2.

"While waiting for several economic data slated for tomorrow and the weekend, investors are also concerned that North Korea risks could return at any time," said Kim Sung-hwan, a stock analyst at Bookook Securities.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared "talking is not the answer" to the tense standoff with North Korea over its nuclear missile development, but his defense chief swiftly asserted that diplomatic options remain.

On the data front, investors are watching out fo South Korean trade on Friday as well as the US jobs report later the same day.

South Korea's industrial output for July rose at the fastest rate in six months, driven by the production of new model cars and Samsung Electronics Co's new smartphone.

Samsung shares were trading up 0.5 per cent at 2,321,000 won.

Foreign investors were set to be net sellers, offloading 62.7 billion Korean won (S$75.63 million) worth of Kospi shares near mid-session.

Automobile manufacturer Kia Motor slumped over 4 per cent after South Korean court ruled against the company, ordering the automaker to pay 420 billion won in unpaid wages.

Shares of SK Innovation rose as much as 6.2 per cent on expectations refining margins would rise in coming quarters.

Decliners outnumbered advancers 420 to 324.

September futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 0.04 point to 109.31.