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South Korea Stocks May Reverse Monday's Losses

The South Korea stock market has alternated between positive and negative finishes through the last five trading days since the end of the two-day winning streak in which it had gathered more than 25 points or 1.2 percent. The KOSPI settled just above the 1,990-point plateau, and now investors figure to go bargain hunting when the market kicks off trade on Tuesday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is cautiously optimistic after most of the regional bourses saw heavy selling in the previous session. The markets may benefit from a pullback in the price of crude oil, as well as news that Germany's lower house of parliament passed a second Greek bailout package. Upbeat economic data from the United States adds to the positive sentiment. The European markets finished lower and the U.S. bourses were mixed but little changed, and the Asian markets are called slightly higher.

The KOSPI finished sharply lower on Monday with broadly based losses, although the technology stocks and oil companies were hit especially hard.

For the day, the index plunged 28.73 points or 1.42 percent to finish at 1,991.16 after trading between 1,987.74 and 2,013.69 on volume of 629 million shares. There were 570 decliners and 275 gainers.

Among the decliners, Hi-mart and Eugene Corp both plunged by the daily limit of 15 percent, while Hyundai Motor shed 3 percent, Hynix Semiconductor lost 3.12 percent, S-Oil plummeted 4.92 percent and LG Chem dropped 4.07 percent.

The lead from Wall Street provides little clarity as stocks staged a significant recovery later on Monday after moving sharply lower at the open. Buying interest waned thereafter, however, and the markets eventually ended the session roughly flat.

Renewed concerns about the financial situation in Europe contributed to the initial weakness on Wall Street, as the G20 called for a further enhancement of Europe's bailout fund before the rest of the G20 nations can consider increasing their contribution to the International Monetary Fund's resources.

Upbeat housing data contributed to the subsequent recovery, as the National Association of Realtors reported that its pending home sales index rose by more than expected in January, reaching its highest level since April 2010. NAR said its pending home sales index rose 2.0 percent to 97.0 in January from a downwardly revised 95.1 in December. Economists had been expecting to index to increase by about 1.5 percent.

While the markets also benefited from a pullback by the price of crude oil as well as news that Germany's lower house of parliament voted in favor of a second Greek bailout package, traders seemed somewhat reluctant to continue buying stocks in afternoon trading.

Among individual stocks, Transocean (RIG) rose by 5.3 percent after reporting a fourth quarter loss of $18.62 per share, including items that impacted results by $18.80 per share. Operating revenues rose to $2.42 billion from $2.13 billion a year earlier.

Home improvement retailer Lowe's (LOW) also closed higher after reporting fourth quarter earnings of $0.26 per share on revenues of $11.6 billion. The results exceeded estimates. The company also updated its 2012 guidance, forecasting earnings of $1.75 to $1.85 per share on 1 to 2 percent sales growth.

Once again, the Dow reached an intraday high above 13,000 but ended the session modestly lower. While the Dow edged down 1.44 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 12,981.51, the NASDAQ inched up 2.41 points or 0.1 percent to 2,966.16 and the S&P 500 rose 1.85 points or 0.1 percent to 1,367.59.

In economic news, South Korea posted a current account deficit of $0.77 billion in January, the Bank of Korea said on Tuesday. That beat forecasts for a shortfall of $2.5 billion after showing a surplus of $3.959 billion in December. The financial account shifted from December's net outflow of 3.50 billion dollars to a net inflow of 1.22 billion dollars.

Also, business conditions in March increased to 84 from 81 from the previous month, the Bank of Korea said on Monday. The latest figure was the highest since October 2011, when the reading was 86. At the same time, the index of entrepreneurs' perception of the current business conditions in the manufacturing sector rose to 80 in February from 78 in January.

After seasonal adjustment, the outlook index for March fell to 84 from 87, while the current conditions indicator moved up to 85 in February from 83 in January. The indicator of expectations of manufacturing turnover in March rose to 95 after reassuming stable at 91 in the previous month. The gauge of sentiment about sales in February rose to 91 from 85 in January, data showed.

On the corporate front, Samsung Electronics plans to sell 380 million mobile handsets and double its sales of smartphones this year, reports said quoting J.K. Shin, president of Samsung's mobile communications division. The company sold about 97 million units of smartphones and 327.4 million handsets last year.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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