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Seoul shares break through 2,600 to hit record close

Nov 23, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

 Seoul shares break through 2,600 to hit record close
Economically sensitive stocks such as chips, steel and shipbuilding pushed the South Korean stock market to its strongest close on Nov. 23, with growing expectations of COVID-19 vaccine development underpinning the outlook for the global economy and Korean exporters.

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s top memory chipmaker, posted its highest finish at 67,500 won ($60.7), with its market value exceeding 400 trillion won ($360 billion) for the first time. It ended up 4.33%, just off its intraday peak of 67,800 won.

The benchmark Kospi rose 1.92% to close at 2,602.59, near its intraday high of 2,605.58. It has rebounded 81% from the one-year low of 1,439.43 it scraped late March.

Monday's close marked the first time the benchmark stock index has broke the 2,600 barrier since 2018, with foreign investors remaining net buyers for a 13th straight session. They bought a net 1 trillion won of Seoul shares on Monday alone.

“This market rally, spread across broader sectors, is structurally different from that of 2018 when it was tilted toward certain sectors,” said Hana Financial Investment analyst Lee Jae-sun.

“Markets will likely continue their upward run, led not only by semiconductors, but also growth industries such as rechargeable batteries and software, as well as the automobile and chemical sectors, buoyed by their improved earnings outlook.”

The US government’s chief advisor on COVID-19 vaccine development, Moncef Slaoui, told CNN on Nov. 22 that the US could begin to ship vaccines to Americans as early as the second week of December, if all goes according to plan.

His remarks whetted the risk appetite of investors who had been focused on biotech, batteries, internet and game stocks, or those seen as beneficiaries in the pandemic era.

News of a $2.5 billion order received by Samsung Heavy Industries Co. added momentum to the market. Samsung Heavy, the world’s second-biggest shipbuilder, said it has signed a $2.5 billion contract to supply ship blocks, materials and equipment to a European shipyard, in the largest single contract it has ever secured. Its shares spiked by 16% to close at 6,930 won.

Sustained foreign buying drove the won higher, as well. The Korean currency rebounded to close at 1,110.4 to the dollar, versus Friday’s close of 1,114.3. Last Thursday it came off a 29-month high on strong government warnings against the won’s bull run.

Since the beginning of this month, foreign investors have bought a net 6.4 trillion won worth of Seoul shares, after cashing in a net 27.8 trillion won in October.

By contrast, retail investors have been snatching up domestic shares since the market tumble in March, purchasing a net 22 trillion won over the past eight months.

Analysts said plenty of market liquidity will continue to pull stock markets higher through the first half of 2021, with the outstanding balance of their stock deposits near a historic high of 63 trillion won.

“Next year, the market keyword will again be liquidity,” said HI Investment & Securities analyst Cho Ik-jae. “Once the COVID-19 impact subsides from the second quarter of next year, central banks will begin to discuss shifting monetary policies, which in turn could increase market volatility.”

 By Jae-Yeon Ko and Jae-Won Park

yeon@hankyung.com

Yeonhee Kim edited this article.

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