(LEAD) Seoul stocks down for 2nd day amid virus woes, Evergrande uncertainties

South Korean stocks slumped for a second straight session Friday after the country’s daily COVID-19 cases hit a record high, erasing gains from easing fears over China Evergrande Group’s debt crisis. The Korean won fell against the U.S. dollar.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) retreated 2.34 points, or 0.07 percent, to close at 3,125.24 points.

Trading volume was moderate at about 738 million shares worth some 12.3 trillion won (US$10.4 billion), with gainers outnumbering losers 499 to 372.

Foreigners bought a net 77 billion won worth of stocks, while institutions sold 342 billion won. Retail investors purchased a net 256 billion won.

Stocks got off to a solid start as investors are monitoring the risks from the massive US$310 billion debt of China’s Evergrande Group.

Market fears eased somewhat after the giant property developer announced it will pay interest to bondholders in China.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 1.48 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite added 1.04 percent. The S&P 500 gained 1.21 percent.

The KOSPI lost ground in the late morning, however, following reports that South Korea’s daily coronavirus cases reached an all-time high of 2,434 on Friday. The mass migration during the Chuseok holiday caused the virus to surge across the country.

“The Evergrande debt crisis seems to have evaded its worst scenario, but it is still being taken as a major discount factor in the local markets,” said Eugene Investment & Securities analyst Huh Jae-hwan.

Top cap Samsung Electronics edged down 0.13 percent to 77,300 won, and No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix decreased 1.42 percent to 104,000 won.

Internet portal operator Naver gained 1.38 percent to 405,500 won, while pharmaceutical giant Samsung Biologics climbed 0.22 percent to 922,000 won.

Leading chemical firm LG Chem inched up 0.13 percent to 761,000 won, and top automaker Hyundai Motor retreated 0.72 percent to 207,000 won. Top bank stock Kakao Bank jumped 3.92 percent to 69,000 won.

The local currency closed at 1,176.5 won against the U.S. dollar, down 1 won from the previous session’s close.

Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys rose 1.7 basis points to 1.575 percent, and the return on the benchmark five-year government bond added 4.4 basis points to 1.859 percent.

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