SEOUL, Jan. 24 (Xinhua) -- South Korean shares fell for two days in a row on Thursday as weaker-than-expected Hyundai Motor earnings and fourth-quarter GDP data weighed on market sentiment.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) declined 15.93 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 1,964.48. Trading volume stood at 551.25 million shares worth 4.45 trillion won (4.16 billion U.S. dollars).
Top automaker Hyundai Motor plunged 4.59 percent after unveiling weaker-than-forecast earnings. The company's operating profit reduced 11.7 percent from a year earlier to 1.83 trillion won (1.71 billion dollars) in the fourth quarter, missing market expectations of 2.1 trillion won. The nation's biggest auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis fell 2.76 percent and the No.2 carmaker Kia Motors sank 3.51 percent.
The country's real GDP increased 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier after rising 0.1 percent in the prior quarter. The reading missed market forecast of 0.8 percent.
The KOSPI started lower on the weak economic data unveiled before the market opens, and it extended its earlier losses following the Hyundai earnings announced in the afternoon.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics slid 1.4 percent as foreign and institutional investors offloaded the most valuable stock in the main bourse. Foreigners sold local stocks worth 224.5 billion won on spots, while dumping 3,375 contracts on the KOSPI 200 index futures, which triggered program-linked arbitrage selling worth 127 billion won.
Local institutions bought stocks worth 67 billion won, and retail investors purchased a net 173.5 billion won worth of shares, limiting the KOSPI's further decline.
Among large-cap shares, most shares ended bearish. The world's largest shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries declined 2.2 percent, and memory chip giant SK Hynix slid 1.6 percent. Consumer electronics giant LG Electronics retreated 2.6 percent, and top life insurer Samsung Life Insurance fell 0.9 percent.
Top steelmaker POSCO advanced 1.4 percent on a hike in product prices, and the nation's largest crude oil refiner SK Innovation rose 0.9 percent.
The local currency finished at 1,068.7 won against the greenback, down 2.5 won from Wednesday's close.
Bond prices ended higher. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes lost 0.01 percentage point to 2.71 percent, but the return on the benchmark five-year government bonds fell 0.01 percentage point to 2.82 percent.