Seoul shares tread water, supported by institutional buying
* N.Korea risk, weak yen spurs foreign selloff
* Autos slide; Hyundai Motor down 2 pct
SEOUL, March 11 (Reuters) - Seoul shares marked time on Monday morning after dipping into negative territory in early trading, as foreign selling spurred by tensions with North Korea and the yen's decline was offset by local institutional buying.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ticked 0.03 percent lower at 2,005.35 points as of 0245 GMT.
"The main board dropped upon market open as investor sentiment appeared to be pretty shaken by North Korean risk, before bouncing back near Friday's closing levels as the declines in early trading were seen as excessive," said Park Seok-hyun, an analyst at KTB Investment & Securities.
He added that if the yen stays near multi-year lows against the dollar it is likely to keep the KOSPI treading water unless the Japanese currency's rapid decline shows signs of abating.
The dollar was steady against the yen around 96.05, near Friday's peak of 96.60 yen, its highest since August 2009, hit after bullish U.S. jobs data.
A softer yen benefits Japanese exporters directly competing with South Korean firms.
Automakers were especially hard hit by the yen's decline, as shares in Hyundai Motor Co fell 2.1 percent while sibling Kia Motors slid 1.3 percent.
But heavyweight Samsung Electronics was trading up 0.5 percent near mid-session, snapping losses after falling 3.9 percent in the last two sessions.
Among daily movers, shares in SK Hynix Inc rose 2 percent, beating local tech peers on its positive first-quarter earnings outlook.
"The price of personal computer (PC) D-RAM chips has exceeded expectations, adding roughly 100 billion South Korean won ($92 million) to (SK Hynix's) inventory value and more than doubling first-quarter operating profits from initial forecasts to about 260 billion won," said Jin Sung-hye, an analyst at KTB Investment & Securities.
Investors favoured some defensives, with movie theatre operator CJ CGV up 2.1 percent while Hyundai Department Store rose 2 percent near mid-session.
Local institutional investors purchased a net 151 billion won worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session, supporting the index, but foreign investors sold a net 116 billion won worth of shares.
Declining shares outnumbered gainers 556 to 231.
The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 0.02 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ fell 0.4 percent. ($1 = 1090.3000 Korean won) (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Eric Meijer)
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