SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Xinhua) -- South Korean shares ended in negative territory on Monday as institutional investors sought to lock in profits after a 1.4 percent gain in the previous session. The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) fell 8.78 points, or 0.45 percent, to close at 1,949.05. Trading volume stood at 191.77 million shares worth 2.83 trillion won (2.63 billion U.S. dollars).
Investors refrained from taking active position amid lack of momentum to move the market sharply up or down.
Foreign investors were net sellers, but reduced their selling volume to 800 million won in the end after dumping as much as 83.9 billion won earlier in the trading.
Institutional investors led the market decline by offloading a net 61.4 billion won worth of stocks in a bid to take recent profits. Retail investors bought shares worth 62.2 billion won, limiting the KOSPI's further fall.
Among large-cap shares, decliners outnumbered gainers. Market bellwether Samsung Electronics lost 0.2 percent, and the nation's biggest web search engine NAVER sank 3 percent. Memory chip giant SK Hynix fell more than 1 percent, and top life insurer Samsung Life Insurance slid 1 percent.
Top automaker Hyundai Motor lost 0.2 percent, and its affiliate Kia Motors declined 1.5 percent. The nation's No.1 auto parts maker Hyundai Mobis slid 0.3 percent, but the nation's biggest mobile operator SK Telecom gained 0.5 percent.
The South Korean currency finished at 1,074.5 won against the greenback, down 2.4 won from Friday's close.
Bond prices ended mixed. The yield on the liquid three-year treasury notes closed unchanged at 2.87 percent, but the return on the benchmark 10-year government bonds lost 0.01 percentage point to 3.51 percent.