Market loses ground for third straight day

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Market loses ground for third straight day

Korean shares fell for a third consecutive day yesterday to their lowest level in four months as foreign investors dumped local shares. The drop came ahead of the U.S. unemployment report for December.

The benchmark Kospi fell 0.39 percent, or 7.57 points, to close at 1,938.54.

The top three blue chips lost ground. Shares of Samsung Electronics dropped 0.24 percent to close at 1.272 million won ($1,198), while shares of Hyundai Motor plunged 1.56 percent to 221,000 won. Shares of SK Hynix slipped 0.9 percent to 38,500 won.

Shares of Posco, however, jumped 0.49 percent to close at 308,000 won, while shares of Hyundai Mobis increased 1.3 percent to 273,500 won. Shares of Korea Electric Power Corporation also jumped 0.83 percent to 36,400 won.

Financial shares, meanwhile, struggled.

KB Financial Group declined 2.46 percent to 39,600 won, while shares of Hana Financial Group dropped 2.5 percent to 41,000 won.

Shares of Woori Financial Group also plunged 3.07 percent to 12,650 won.

U.S. employers hired 197,000 workers in December after 203,000 the previous month, according to the median estimate of analysts surveyed. The jobless rate is likely held at 7 percent, the lowest since November 2008. Federal Reserve officials saw diminishing economic benefits from their bond-buying program, according to minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee Dec. 17 to 18 meeting published this week.

Korea’s won saw its biggest weekly loss in three weeks after the central bank kept borrowing costs unchanged even as the yen continued to weaken, threatening exports.

The Bank of Korea held its benchmark interest rate at 2.5 percent Thursday. BOK Gov. Kim Choong Soo said that while Asia’s fourth-largest economy is growing near its potential, the yen may hurt automobile, steel and machinery industries.

South Korea will act against “herd behavior” and try to stabilize markets, Vice Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said yesterday in Seoul.

The won fell 0.6 percent this week to 1,061.38 per dollar in Seoul, the most since the period ended Dec. 20.

The currency gained 0.1 percent yesterday.

BY LEE EUN-JOO, BLOOMBERG [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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