Omicron worries drives Kospi down 2.42%
The Kospi closed at its lowest level this year Tuesday as investors freaked out over the Omicron coronavirus variant. The won rose against the dollar.
The benchmark Kospi plummeted 70.31 points, or 2.42 percent, to close at 2,839.01 points. That is the lowest since last Dec. 29, four days after the peak of the third wave of the virus in Korea.
Trading volume was high at about 968 million shares worth some 19.2 trillion won ($16.2 billion), with losers outnumbering gainers 874 to 48.
Foreigners sold a net 144 billion won, and institutions offloaded 635 billion won, while retail investors bought 742 billion won.
The Kospi opened higher as investors tried to buy oversold stocks following the global market's rebound Monday.
But the index swung to losses and increasingly lost ground on foreign and institutional sell-offs.
Korea reported 3,032 new Covid-19 cases Tuesday, with the new variant not being detected yet.
"Hong Kong strengthened its lockdown of borders, and the local virus toll remains high, dragging down stock prices," said Mirae Asset Securities analyst Seo Sang-young.
Investor sentiment also worsened over U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Powell's speech, which signaled a faster timeline for tapering stimulus policies, he added.
Most large caps closed lower in Seoul.
Samsung Electronics decreased 1.38 percent to 71,300 won, and chipmaker SK hynix lost 1.72 percent to 114,000 won
Internet portal operator Naver retreated 1.42 percent to 381,000 won, and Kakao fell 0.81 percent to 122,000 won.
Pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics added 0.57 percent to 889,000 won, but Celltrion declined 2.59 percent to 207,000 won.
Carmaker Hyundai Motor went down 2.49 percent to 195,500 won.
Kakao Bank slumped 6.69 percent to 65,600 won, and Kakao Pay lost 8.6 percent to 218,000 won.
The Kosdaq lost 26.71 points, or 2.69 percent, to close at 965.63.
The local currency closed at 1,187.9 won against the dollar, down 5.1 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed mixed. The yield on three-year government bonds lost 3.7 basis points to 1.804 percent, and the return on the benchmark 10-year government bond added 2 basis points to 1.49 percent.
BY LEE TAE-HEE, YONHAP [firstname.lastname@example.org]