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Seoul shares inch up on bargain hunting ahead of Fed meeting

South Korean stocks closed slightly higher Monday as investors scooped up bargains ahead of the US Federal Reserve's policy meeting this week, analysts said. The local currency closed higher against the greenback.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index gained 7.74 points, or 0.34 percent, to close at 2,310.55.

Trading volume was moderate at 437 million shares worth 6.82 trillion won ($5 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 593 to 281.

After opening lower, shares rebounded later in the session as investors sought bargains following the significant drop experienced in the previous week.

The rebound, however, was limited as investors also awaited possible hints from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on future monetary policy this week.

"Investors set on the sidelines as they awaited the Fed meeting and South Korea's export data, along with the US manufacturers' index," said Kim Seok-hwan, an analyst at Mirae Asset Securities Co.

Kim added geopolitical issues from the Middle East also induced investors to take a wait-and-see stance.

Foreigners dumped a net 63.3 billion won worth of local shares, and retail investors sold a net 26.1 billion won. Institutions, on the other hand, bought a net 43.3 billion won.

Samsung Electronics and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix closed unchanged from the previous session at 67,300 won and 119,100 won, respectively.

Battery makers were among the winners, with LG Energy Solution rising 1.25 percent to 405,000 won.

Top steelmaker Posco Holdings advanced 2.36 percent to 433,000 won, and Korea Zinc gained 5.15 percent to 490,000 won.

Carmakers finished bearish, with leading Hyundai Motor decreasing 1.77 percent to 172,500 won and its smaller sister Kia falling 2.01 percent to 78,100 won. Auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis shed 3.86 percent to 211,500 won.

Financial shares, meanwhile, also lost ground as some investors speculated that the country may adopt a so-called windfall tax for the banking sector amid high borrowing costs. KB Financial lost 2.67 percent to 51,100 won, and Shinhan Financial slipped 2.57 percent to 34,100 won.

The local currency ended at 1,350.90 won against the US dollar, up 5 won from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)

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