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South Korea Shares Likely To Remain Rangebound

The South Korea stock market has finished lower in two of three trading days since the end of the two-day winning streak in which it had gathered almost 45 points or 2.2 percent. The KOSPI remains just beneath the 2,065-point plateau and it figures to remain in that neighborhood on Friday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is upbeat on optimism over the outlook for rate hikes and continued support from crude oil prices. The European and U.S. markets were up and the Asian bourses are tipped to open in similar fashion.

The KOSPI finished barely lower on Thursday as losses from the financial shares and airlines were mitigated by support from the technology stocks.

For the day, the index eased 1.43 points or 0.07 percent to finish at 2,063.28 after trading between 2,057.16 and 2,072.81. Volume was 375.68 million shares worth 5.27 trillion won. There were 471 decliners and 330 gainers.

Among the actives, Shinhan Financial dropped 2.54 percent, while KB Financial retreated 2.05 percent, Hana Financial shed 0.42 percent, Samsung Electronics added 0.51 percent, LG Electronics soared 3.80 percent, LG Display surged 4.21 percent, SK hynix spiked 2.67 percent, SK Telecom added 0.56 percent, POSCO advanced 1.17 percent, KEPCO accelerated 2.68 percent, Korean Air Lines skidded 1.18 percent, Kia Motors fell 1.44 percent and Hyundai Motor and Woori Bank were unchanged.

The lead from Wall Street is positive as stocks shook off early weakness Thursday to finish higher for the fifth straight session.

The Dow added 122.80 points or 0.51 percent to 24,001.92, while the NASDAQ gained 28.99 points or 0.42 percent to 6,986.07 and the S&P rose 11.68 points or 0.45 percent to 2,596.64.

The initial weakness on Wall Street came as traders cashed in on recent strength after trade talks between the U.S. and China showed no significant breakthroughs. Selling pressure waned shortly thereafter as traders remain optimistic the U.S. and China will eventually reach a long-term trade deal.

On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department reported a bigger than expected drop in initial jobless claims in the week ended January 5.

Traders also followed remarks from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who reiterated the Fed will be patient in raising interest rates further, noting the central bank is waiting and watching.

Crude oil futures ended higher on Thursday, extending gains to a ninth successive session on reports of declines in crude output from OPEC and other major producers. Crude oil futures ended $0.23 or 0.4 percent at $52.59 a barrel.

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