(LEAD) Seoul shares hit 7-month low on U.S. rate hike woes

SEOUL, - South Korean stocks dropped by more than 1.5 percent to the lowest point in over seven months Friday amid woes over the U.S. Federal Reserve's further monetary tightening. The local currency rose against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) lost 40.8 points, or 1.69 percent, to close at 2,375, marking the lowest level since March 14, when the KOSPI finished at 2,348.97.

Trading volume was slim at 507.2 million shares worth 8.8 trillion won (US$6.5 billion), with decliners beating gainers 757 to 135.

In a speech delivered at a discussion session in New York on Thursday (U.S. time), Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said inflation is still "too high," leaving the door open for another interest rate hike.

"Powell's statement and a spike in longer-term bond yields weighed heavily on investor sentiment," said Lee Kyung-min, an analyst at Daishin Securities.

In Seoul, tech and battery stocks led the market decline.

Top-cap Samsung Electronics dropped 1.01 percent to 68,800 won, and home appliance maker LG Electronics fell 0.75 percent to 105,400 won.

Battery shares continued their bearish mode following Tesla's weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings. Major players LG Energy Solution and POSCO Future M tumbled 3.54 percent and 5.66 percent to 436,500 won and 300,000 won, respectively.

Gamemakers were also in negative territory, with NCSOFT falling 3.59 percent to 228,500 won and Netmarble dropping 2.98 percent to 37,500 won.

Korean Air Lines decreased 1.43 percent to 19,350 won, and Asian Airlines sank 2.63 percent to 9,640 won ahead of a key board meeting to sell the latter's cargo division for the two company's takeover deal.

Leading pharmaceutical firm Celltrion retreated 0.07 percent to 142,200 won after announcing a general shareholders meeting next week to make a decision on a planned merger with its sales affiliate Celltrion Healthcare.

The local currency ended at 1,352.4 won against the U.S. dollar, up 5 won from the previous session's close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed higher. The yield on three-year Treasurys fell 3.7 basis points to 4.033 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds dropped 3.1 points to 4.183 percent.

Source: Yonhap News Agency