South Korean stocks closed slightly lower Friday as investors took to the sidelines amid uncertainty over the US Federal Reserve's much-awaited rate cuts and concerns over the escalating tension with Japan. The Korean won lost ground against the US dollar for a second consecutive session.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) shed 2.71 points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 1,948.30. Trading volume was slim at some 365 million shares worth 3.27 trillion won ($2.7 billion), with losers greatly outnumbering winners 589 to 246.
"Korean stocks opened lower on less-than-anticipated dovish remarks from some Fed members. Such remarks appear to have put more pressure on the market as they came ahead remarks from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell," Kiwoom Securities analyst Seo Sang-young said.
The Fed chair was widely expected to hint at a possible rate reduction at the three-day Jackson Hole meeting, set to end Saturday (US time).
Some Fed members suggested a possible rate cut in the near future, including Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan, who said he will "at least be open-minded" about a rate cut should conditions continue to worsen.
Foreigners were net buyers in South Korea, purchasing a net 76 million won worth of local shares after a two-day selling streak.
Institutions scooped up a net 66 billion won, while individuals offloaded a net 91 billion won.
Large caps closed mixed.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 0.23 percent to 43,950 won, while No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix advanced 0.81 percent to 74,400 won.
Autos were in positive terrain, with industry leader Hyundai Motor spiking 1.61 percent to 126,000 won and Kia Motors adding 0.95 percent to 42,350 won.
The local currency closed at 1,210.60 won against the greenback, down 3.20 won from the previous session's close.
Bond prices, which move inversely to yields, closed lower. The yield on three-year Treasurys gained 3.9 basis points to 1.169 percent, while the return on the benchmark five-year government bond advanced 3.6 basis points to 1.219 percent. (Yonhap)