Seoul shares slightly higher on U.S. data, profit taking caps gains

Reuters

* KOSPI on track for a sixth straight winning session

* LG Display, LG Innotek rise after Apple deal

* Institutions in longest net buying streak since 2008

By Jungmin Jang

SEOUL, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Seoul shares crawled higher on Tuesday morning, poised to finish stronger for a sixth straight day, as bullish U.S. data raised hopes for a year-end boost in consumer spending.

Some investors, however, consolidated profits ahead of the Christmas holiday which capped gains.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 0.1 percent at 1,998.77 points by 0200 GMT after hitting an intraday high of 2,000.28, briefly regaining the psychologically important index level. The KOSPI has risen 1.8 percent in the past five sessions.

"Risk sentiment is gradually improving, backed by bullish data across the globe and the hopes for a Boxing Day consumption boost," said Hana Daetoo Securities analyst Chang Hee-jong.

U.S. consumer sentiment hit a five-month high heading into the end of the year and spending notched up its strongest month since the summer, brightening prospects for year-end consumption that could lift the index higher.

On Monday, Wall Street closed at record highs on the back of a distribution deal by Apple Inc and China Mobile Ltd . South Korean suppliers to Apple benefited from the deal as well, with LG Display Co Ltd and LG Innotek Co Ltd advancing 1.6 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, investors locked in profits on affiliates of Hyundai Group, which soared in the previous session after revealing a plan to improve financial structures. Hyundai Elevator Co Ltd dropped 3.4 percent and Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd fell 1.3 percent.

Shares in KB Financial Group Inc fell 1.1 percent after Hyundai Merchant Marine said on Tuesday it would sell 46.5 billion won ($43.84 million) worth of KB Financial shares as part of its plan to improve its financial structure.

The top three KOSPI components also suffered from profit taking, with Samsung Electronics Co Ltd dipping 1 percent while Hyundai Motor Co and POSCO slipped 0.9 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Institutional investors purchased a net 108 billion won of local shares, poised to extend their net buying steak to a 15th consecutive session, their longest since August 2008.

Local stock markets will be closed on Wednesday for the Christmas holiday and reopen on Thursday. The last trading day for local stocks is Dec. 30.

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