Seoul stocks opened lower Thursday, tracking renewed market turmoil on Wall Street, sparked by the UN health body's declaration that the new coronavirus is a pandemic.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index fell 19.70 points, or 1.03 percent, to 1,8888.57 in the first 15 minutes of trading.
On Wednesday, the KOSPI plunged nearly 3 percent to 1,908.27 points, the lowest level since Feb. 17, 2016. The plunge was driven by lack of clarity from the planned US measures to cushion the economic pain of COVID-19 spread.
US President Donald Trump said late Wednesday (local time) the United States may not need to take the measures "if we get rid of the problem very quickly," adding to investors' woes.
Further weighing on investor sentiment are the World Health Organization (WHO)'s declaration and expectations that the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak around the globe may result in a recession, analysts said.
Foreigners continued to sell stocks amid risk-off sentiment after dumping 3.7 trillion won worth of stocks in the past five sessions.
Large-cap stocks were mixed.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics Co. fell 0.8 percent, No. 2 chipmaker SK hynix Inc. declined 1.3 percent, leading wireless services provider SK Telecom Co. shed 0.2 percent, and top carmaker Hyundai Motor Co. was down 0.9 percent.
Among gainers, state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. rose 1.2 percent, Hanjin KAL Corp., the parent firm of Korean Air Lines Co., jumped 3.2 percent, and cosmetics firm AmorePacific Corp. was up 0.3 percent.
The local currency was trading at 1,196.55 won against the US dollar, down 3.55 won from the previous session's close. (Yonhap)