January 28, 2020 / 7:44 AM / 24 days ago

S.Korean stocks post sharpest fall in 15 months as China virus spreads

* KOSPI drops over 3%, foreigners net sellers

* Korean won posts lowest close since Dec. 12, 2019

* South Korea benchmark bond yield falls

* For the midday report, please click

By Hayoung Choi

SEOUL, Jan 28 (Reuters) - South Korean shares suffered their worst session in more than 15 months on Tuesday, dragged down by mounting worries over the economic impact of the new coronavirus outbreak. Local stocks exposed to China, the biggest buyer of South Korean goods, dominated the losses as the death toll from the virus in the world’s second-largest economy climbed to 106 and some health experts questioned whether Beijing can contain the virus, which could threaten global growth.

The Seoul stock market’s KOSPI index ended down 69.41 points, or 3.09%, at 2,176.72, posting its sharpest one-day fall since Oct. 11, 2018. The index touched its lowest since Jan. 8 earlier in the session.

“South Korea’s economy could take a bigger hit compared with other Asian countries due to its significant trade volume with China,” said Choi Seok-won, chief of SK Securities’ research centre.

He added that the market is likely to bottom out only after investors confirm that China’s countermeasures are working effectively.

South Korean cosmetic makers highly dependent on Chinese tourists visiting Seoul tumbled, with Tonymoly and Able C&C losing more than 12% and 15%, respectively. China has discouraged its citizens from travelling abroad amid the virus outbreak.

On the other hand, mask producers, Kleannara and Monalisa were the best performers in the broader market, as they firmed 30% each to hit intraday price limit.

The Korean won slipped 0.68% versus the dollar, in line with Asian peers. The won was quoted at 1,176.7 per dollar on the onshore settlement platform, registering its lowest close since Dec. 12, 2019.

On the main board, foreign investors offloaded 523.2 billion won ($448.25 million) worth of local stocks, marking their biggest net sales since Nov. 26, 2019.

The trading volume during the session in the KOSPI index was 800.05 million shares and, of the total traded issues of 909, the number of advancing shares was 82.

The downturn in sentiment sent investors to safe havens, sending bond yields down. The most liquid 3-year Korean treasury bond yield fell by 6.9 basis points to 1.353%, while the benchmark 10-year yield fell by 10.2 basis points to 1.603%.

$1 = 1,167.2000 won Editing by Aditya Soni

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