The South Korean won and shares strengthened early on Monday as the semi-annual US Treasury currency report eased some market concerns, while the failure of a North Korea missile launch also aided the sentiment. The won was quoted at 1,137.5 to the dollar as of 0313 GMT, up 0.2 percent compared to the previous close of 1,140.0. The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.3 percent at 2,142.29 points. The U.S. Treasury currency report released over the weekend kept South Korea on the monitoring list as it did last October. North Korea’s missile launch failure calmed market worries over geopolitical risks in the region, providing some support. The won is set to gain for the day following the currency report, but its rise would be temporary, said Kim Doo-un, a foreign exchange analyst at Hana Financial Investment.
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“Risks over a possible North Korean nuclear test still remain in markets and the presidential election in France will also trigger safe-haven demand among the investors, pressuring the won,” said Kim. France will be holding a two-stage presidential election on April 23 and May 7. The won’s weaker trend is likely to last for a month or two, Kim added. Offshore investors were set to be net sellers for a third straight session, offloading 44.4 billion Korean won ($39.02 million) worth of KOSPI shares near mid-session. The sub-index for major financial groups rose nearly 2 percent as a South Korean pension fund on Monday accepted a debt-to-equity swap proposal for bondholders of troubled Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
Shares of Amorepacific rose nearly 5 percent. Advancers outnumbered decliners 567 to 230. June futures on three-year treasury bonds gained 0.04 point to 109.49.