South Korean stocks closed slightly lower Wednesday, hurt by declines in semiconductor stocks after chip giant Samsung Electronics reported its fourth-quarter earnings. The Korean won fell against the US dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 1.72 points, or 0.07 percent, to 2,497.09.
Trade volume was moderate at 443.1 million shares worth 8.69 trillion won ($6.50 billion), with losers outpacing winners 525 to 350.
Market watchers cited the mixed performance of overnight Wall Street trading as well as lukewarm fourth-quarter earnings announced by Samsung Electronics.
Overnight, US stocks closed mixed as Wall Street waited for the Fed's latest decision on interest rates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.35 percent, while the S&P 500 shed 0.06 percent. The Nasdaq composite dropped 0.76 percent.
Samsung Electronics said its fourth-quarter operating profit sank 34.4 percent from a year earlier due largely to sluggish semiconductor business but its memory chip segment turned to the black on recovering demand.
Market observers expected Samsung to shift to a net profit in its memory chip business in the first quarter, backed by recovering demand for DRAM products.
Kim Dong-won, an analyst at KB Securities, said the company is "expected to enter a phase of full-fledged earnings improvement thanks to an expected rebound in DRAM prices."
In Seoul, chip shares took beatings, with Samsung Electronics slumping 2.15 percent to 72,700 won and chip rival SK hynix tumbling 1.61 percent to 134,700 won.
Internet portal operators Naver and Kakao also closed lower, falling 4.30 percent and 3.31 percent to 200,500 won and 52,500 won, respectively.
Auto and energy-related shares, however, enjoyed brisk trading, with Hyundai Motor climbing 2.42 percent to 194,600 and leading chemical manufacturer LG Chem jumping 1.88 percent to 434,500 won.
The local currency closed at 1,334.60 won against the greenback, down 5.20 won from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)