* Samsung Electronics gains 2.7 pct
* Hyundai Motor up 4 pct after steep decline
* Defensive plays lose ground; banking, utilities down
By Joyce Lee
SEOUL, Jan 29 (Reuters) - South Korean shares rose on Tuesday on institutional bargain-hunting, with the auto and tech sectors gaining strongly after steep declines that were driven by a firmer won currency.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) gained 0.8 percent to close at 1,955.96 points, snapping four straight days of losses.
“Demand flocked to sectors with recent steep declines such as autos and tech, after the won weakened drastically against the dollar on Monday, improving investor sentiment concerning exporters,” said Jang Jin-wook, an analyst at Hana Daetoo Securities.
The South Korean won had plunged to its lowest in 13 weeks against the dollar on Monday and marked its biggest one-day decline since September 2011, although it rose against the dollar by more than 1 percent in late domestic trade on Tuesday.
Exporters, which lead the KOSPI in market capitalisation, had seen their shares fall due to the strengthening won, as it gives a price advantage to rivals such as Japanese firms.
South Korean shares had fallen 4.5 percent year-to-date as of Monday, underperforming a 1.7 percent gain in their Asian peers.
Tech heavyweight Samsung Electronics rose 2.7 percent, snapping losses after a 4-session decline wiped 15.9 trillion won ($14.54 billion) from its market capitalisation as of Monday.
Automakers were one of the largest gainers, with Hyundai Motor Co up 4 percent while sibling Kia Motors Corp rose 5.1 percent.
“Hyundai Motor could see further gains if the exchange rate shows further signs of stabilising,” said Suh Sung-moon, an analyst at Korea Investment & Securities.
Defensive plays such as financials and utilities lost ground, with Woori Finance Holdings down 2.3 percent while Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) fell 3 percent.
Steelmaker POSCO fell 0.1 percent ahead of its fourth-quarter earnings due after the trading session.
Local institutional investors purchased a net 239.9 billion won ($219.44 million) worth of KOSPI shares, lifting the index.
Advancing shares outnumbered decliners 442 to 351. The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks was up 1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.2 percent higher.
Move on day +0.84 percent
12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012
12-month low 1,769.31 25 July 2012
Change on yr -3.7 percent
All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011
All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981 ($1 = 1093.2500 Korean won) (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)