Kospi falls 1.62% from record high on Monday
Stocks dipped more than 1.5 percent Tuesday after the Kospi index closed at an all-time high in the previous session, largely on concerns of spreading Covid-19 cases at home and abroad. The won fell against the dollar.
The benchmark Kospi fell 44.97 points, or 1.62 percent, to close at 2,733.68.
Trading volume was high at about 1.2 billion shares worth some 19.6 trillion won ($17.7 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 783 to 99.
Foreigners sold a net 148 billion won, extending their selling streak to a fourth session, while retail investors purchased a net 368 billion won. Institutions offloaded a net 200 billion won.
The Kospi registered its deepest fall since Oct. 30 amid growing virus fears and valuation pressure.
Earlier in the morning, the Korean government rolled out additional antivirus measures, such as banning private gatherings of five or more people from Thursday to Jan. 3 across the country.
It was an extension of a ban that was previously limited to the greater Seoul area from Wednesday until Jan. 3.
Global recovery hopes also weakened over a reported new strain of the coronavirus that is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original.
"Investor sentiment seems to have weakened on the new strain of the coronavirus spreading in Britain, along with increased [Covid-19] lockdown efforts," Daeshin Securities analyst Lee Kyung-min said.
"Positive leads, including vaccine hopes and a U.S. stimulus agreement, came up short of offsetting the virus fears, as they had been already projected in the stock prices," he added.
Most large caps traded lower in Seoul.
Samsung Electronics lost 0.96 percent to 72,300 won, and chipmaker SK hynix slumped 3.02 percent to 112,500 won.
Pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics retreated 2.43 percent to 803,000 won, and Celltrion declined 2.18 percent to 359,000 won.
Internet portal giant Naver finished unchanged at 284,000 won, with its rival Kakao dipping 0.92 percent to 376,000 won.
Chemical maker LG Chem fell 2.21 percent to 797,000 won, and rechargeable battery maker Samsung SDI dropped 1.94 percent to 555,000 won.
Hyundai Motor, the country's largest automaker, fell 1.6 percent to 184,000 won, and steelmaker Posco dipped 2.55 percent to 267,500 won.
The Kosdaq also declined 24.85 points, or 2.61 percent, to close at 928.73.
The local currency closed at 1,107.4 won per dollar, up 4.7 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The return on the three-year bond lost 1.5 basis points to close at 0.945 percent, and the return on the 10-year bond fell one basis point to close at 0.93 percent.
BY CHEA SARAH, YONHAP [firstname.lastname@example.org]