(LEAD) Seoul shares end nearly 2 pct lower amid Middle East woes

SEOUL, South Korean stocks tumbled nearly 2 percent lower Thursday as escalating concerns over the Israel-Hamas conflict stoked risk aversion. The local currency lost ground against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) lost 46.8 points, or 1.9 percent, to close at 2,415.8, marking the lowest level since Oct. 10, when KOSPI finished at 2,402.58.

Trading volume was moderate at 739.5 million shares worth 8.7 trillion won (US$6.3 billion), with decliners sharply outnumbering gainers 808 to 94.

Foreigners dumped a net 155.4 billion won worth of local shares and institutions sold a net 248.3 billion won.

Analysts noted that intensifying tensions in the Middle East following a deadly explosion at a hospital in the Gaza Strip weighed heavily on the stock market.

"KOSPI was affected by geopolitical concerns in the Middle East and a rise in bond yields in the United States," said Han Ji-young, an analyst from Kiwoom Securities.

Top-cap Samsung Electronics fell 1.42 percent to 69,500 won and its chipmaking rival SK hynix slumped 3.31 percent to 125,700 won.

Battery shares were among the big losers following a drop in Tesla Inc.'s third-quarter earnings. Industry leader LG Energy Solution tumbled 2.69 percent to 452,500 won and Samsung SDI slid 3.52 percent to 494,000 won.

Rising oil prices stemming from the intensifying Israel-Hamas tensions dragged down stocks of oil refineries and chemical companies here. Top oil refiner SK Innovation declined 2.17 percent to 144,000 won and leading chemicals maker LG Chem retreated 2.37 percent to 494,000 won.

Flagship air carrier Korean Air Lines fell 2.58 percent to 19,630 won and Asiana Airlines dropped 1.49 percent to 9,900 won.

Kakao, the operator of No. 1 mobile chat app KakaoTalk, slid 3.11 percent to 40,500 won after its chief investment officer was arrested for alleged stock price manipulation in its takeover bid for K-pop agency SM Entertainment.

The local currency ended at 1,357.4 won against the U.S. dollar, down 7.8 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed sharply lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys increased 3.9 basis points to 4.070 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds jumped 6.3 basis points to 4.214 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency