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Kospi closes above 2,400 mark

Buying by foreign investors fuels Korean index to a fresh record
July 14,2017
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A stock board at the Korea Exchange office in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Thursday shows the Kospi closing at 2,409.49. It is the first time the index has closed above 2,400. [YONHAP]
It’s not just temperatures that are climbing this summer. The Korean stock market is also hot as it continues to break records left and right.

On Thursday, the main index, the Kospi, reached a new high and so did Korea’s largest conglomerate, Samsung Electronics.

The bullish rally occurred despite the continued saber rattling of North Korea. Foreign investors appear to be unfazed by the geopolitical tension, as their market capitalization has reached the highest level ever.

The Kospi closed on Thursday at 2,409.49, up 17.72 points or 0.74 percent from the previous trading day.

This is the first time the Kospi has broken past 2,400 and comes less than two months after it passed the 2,300 barrier.

The market started the day on a positive note, taking only a minute after opening to break past 2,400. In that time, the index rose 14.26 points from the previous session, and during the day, the market even gained as much as 30 points, but last-minute selling limited the Kospi from making further advances.

This upbeat performance was triggered by strong buying from institutional investors, and foreign investors further fueled the favorable upswing.

The Kospi also got a boost from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s overnight comments in Washington that current economic growth in the United States warrants a “gradual increase in the federal funds rates over time.”

The mood was not lost on the nation’s largest conglomerate, Samsung Electronics. The company for the first time saw its share value exceed 2.5 million won ($2,200) per share.

As a result, Samsung now encompasses more than 20 percent market capitalization on the Kospi, and there are already higher expectations for the company after estimates put operating profit in the second quarter at 14 trillion won, largely thanks to continuous global demand for computer chips, the company’s main bread and butter.

“Samsung is rising as a leading global company, but when compared to similar global companies, its shares are still undervalued,” Dongbu Securities analyst Kwon Sung-ryul said.

“Considering the competitiveness of the company’s semiconductors and displays, Samsung Electronics could possibly achieve 15 trillion won operating profit in the third quarter. “

With the value of Korean stocks rising, foreign investors are snatching up shares.

They now own 34 percent of shares on the market, the highest since June 2007, and the stocks are worth 602.6 trillion won, a first according to Koscom, the IT service provider of the country’s stock market.

Foreign investors have been a major buyer of the Korean stocks this year.

While institutional and retail investors have sold off a net 11.3 trillion won and 1.5 trillion won each so far this year, foreign investors have bought 10.9 trillion won in Korean stocks.

The Korean market, which has been stuck in limited movement in recent years, began seeing significant changes around May, when a presidential election ended the political uncertainty clouding the country after former President Park Geun-hye was ousted from office on corruption charges.

The market for the first time passed the 2,200 level in April after six years of ebbs and flows and quickly rose to 2,300.

Strong recovery in the country’s exports since the beginning of the year, during which Korean shipments enjoyed double-digit growth, helped boost investor sentiment.

The question now is whether the momentum will continue.

Some market analysts are betting it will and even project the market will head toward 2,600 in the second half depending on whether Korean companies achieve a similar performance as it did in the second quarter.


BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]