(LEAD) Seoul shares end nearly flat; won dips to nearly 4-month low

SEOUL, South Korean stocks finished nearly flat Wednesday ahead of the releases of key U.S. inflation data as investors cashed in recent gains. The local currency fell sharply against the U.S. dollar. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) dropped 1.98 points, or 0.07 percent, to close at 2,755.11. Trade volume was moderate at 482.5 million shares worth 11.3 trillion won (US$8.38 billion), with losers outnumbering winners 499 to 367. Individuals and institutions led the slight decline, dumping a net 348.1 billion won and 68.3 billion won worth of local shares, respectively, while foreign investors scooped up a net 270 billion won. On Wall Street on Tuesday (U.S. time), the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.08 percent to extend its losing streak to a third day ahead of key inflation data later this week. "Despite the bearish U.S. market, the KOSPI remained quite dull at over the 2,700-point level," said Lee Jae-won, an analyst from Shinhan Securities. "Battery, internet and game sha res rose to ease the downside trend." In Seoul, most shares ended mixed. Samsung Electronics, the world's No. 1 memory chipmaker, edged down 0.13 percent to 79,800 won, while its rival SK hynix gained 2.6 percent to 181,200 won. Top automaker Hyundai Motor advanced 1.46 percent to 244,000 won but its sister Kia declined 0.7 percent to 113,600 won. Leading battery maker LG Energy Solution, the third-largest share in terms of market cap, added 0.74 percent to 409,000 won, while POSCO Future M, a battery making unit under steel giant POSCO Holdings, slid 0.79 percent to 312,000 won. Naver, the top online portal operator, edged up 0.21 percent to 189,300 won and its rival Kakao decreased 0.18 percent to 54,800 won. The local currency closed at 1,348.7 won against the greenback, down 9.2 won from the previous session's close, marking the lowest since Nov. 1, 2023, when the corresponding reading was 1,357.30. Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, increased. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 1.3 b asis points to 3.288 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds dropped 1.8 basis points to 3.322 percent. Source: Yonhap News Agency