South Korean stocks closed 0.57 percent lower Monday, as policy uncertainties on monetary easing by the United States and Japan dented investor sentiment, analysts said. The local currency rose slightly against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) retreated 11.48 points to finish at 1,989.57. Trading volume was light at 322.9 million shares worth 3.62 trillion won (US$3.20 billion) with decliners far outnumbering gainers 578 to 262.
"A credible voice from policy makers can only prop up investor confidence at this stage, but we don't see any of it yet," said Kim Hyung-ryeol, an analyst at Kyobo Securities Co.
The market needs reassurance at least from either Washington or Tokyo that monetary easing will continue for the time being, or it's inevitable the volatility will expand, Kim added.
Foreigners turned to net sellers on Monday, snapping the three-day consecutive buying binge last week. They offloaded 17.2 billion won, with institutional investors dumping 41.9 billion won.
The KOSPI was weighed down by blue-chip losses, with tech and heavy industries leading the decline. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics slid 0.39 percent to 1,532,000 won and heavy equipment maker Doosan Heavy Industries tumbled 3.08 percent to 45,600 won.
Brokerage houses also finished bearish due to lingering market jitters stemming from monetary policy risks. Major player Mirae Asset Securities sank 2.42 percent to 46,350 won.
Shares of STX Group, a local shipping and shipbuilding conglomerate, and its affiliates plunged on the local bourse, following media reports that its main creditor bank informed related authorities and other banks that it will sell off its
shares in STX Corp.
STX, the group's holding company, fell by the daily limit of 15 percent to close at 2,180 won, with its troubled shipbuilding arm STX Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering nosediving nearly 14 percent to 3,355 won.
In contrast, autos gathered ground. Hyundai Motor, the second-biggest listed firm on the main index, climbed 0.94 percent to 214,500 won.
The local currency ended at 1,128.00 won against the greenback, up 1.7 won from Friday's close, largely due to the streak of a strong dollar, dealers said.