South Korean stocks started lower on Wednesday as investor sentiment remained fragile amid concerns that political turmoil in Libya would jack up oil prices, analysts said.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 2.99 points, or 0.15 percent, to trade at 1,966.93 in the first 15 minutes of trading.
Already-rising oil prices, sparked by the economic recovery and money printing by the United States, are feared to pick up due to political upheaval in oil exporter Libya, crimping the fragile global recovery and raising risks of higher inflation.
The cost for Dubai crude oil, South Korea's benchmark, continued to rise after it surpassed the US$100-per-barrel mark for the first time in 30 months. South Korea, the world's fifth-largest purchaser of crude oil, relies almost entirely on imports for its oil needs.
U.S. markets closed sharply lower on Tuesday on concerns about political upheaval in Libya. The Dow Jones industrial average declined 1.44 percent, and the tech-laden Nasdaq composite lost 2.74 percent.
The local currency was changing hands at 1,129.45 won to the U.S. dollar as of 9:15 a.m., down 1.85 won from Tuesday's close.