Global Markets: South Korean Stocks Return to Positive Territory -- Update

By Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Stocks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia outperformed Wednesday, as Thailand's benchmark surpassed a record high reached in 1994, though trading was light.

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And South Korea's Kospi benchmark returned to positive territory as some major tech stocks rebounded, offsetting a massive drop for Hyundai Heavy Industries, which lost more than a quarter of its market value Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Chinese stocks sold off in afternoon trading. The Shanghai Composite was recently down 1% and the CSI 300--made up of the biggest stocks in both Shanghai and Shenzhen--slid 1.5%.

Smartphone-related companies fell to begin the week, following reports of potential sales weakness for the newest iPhones.

But as more investors returned to their desks after Christmas, Samsung Electronics rose 2% Wednesday and Taiwan's Taiex index finished up 0.6%, as Apple assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry rose 1.1%.

Other tech stocks were weaker, however. Largan Precision, a Taiwanese company that makes smartphone lenses, fell nearly 5%, while Sunny Optical, a Hong Kong-listed peer, declined 5.5%.

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Tech has arguably been the world's best-performing sector this year, so it isn't surprising that there has been a year-end pullback, said Felix Lam, a portfolio manager at BNP Paribas Asset Management. He doesn't consider the sector's valuations to be very expensive.

And while the smartphone supply chain will be under pressure in the seasonally weak first quarter, President Securities said it doesn't see fundamentals deteriorating.

The declines for some tech firms helped offset a rebound in Chinese property developers in Hong Kong, leaving the benchmark Hang Seng Index up 0.1% in afternoon trading.

Japan and Australia were also a touch higher, while New Zealand's benchmark ended down 0.2%.

Southeast Asian markets saw gains of nearly 0.5%, thanks in part to oil jumping to fresh 2 1/2 -year highs Tuesday following a pipeline explosion in Libya. Futures pulled back nearly 0.5% in Asian trading Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Thailand's SET benchmark topped a 1994 record high by climbing as much as 0.6%.

In Korea, the Kospi was up 0.2% even as Hyundai Heavy plunged 29% and unit Hyundai Mipo Dockyard, another index member, slumped 16%.

Hyundai Heavy, the world's biggest shipbuilder, gave guidance through 2018, announced a 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion) stock-sale plan to raise funds and said it would sell part of its refining operation.

Bitcoin rallied in Asian trading Wednesday. It was recently around $16,400, according to CoinDesk.

Write to Kenan Machado at kenan.machado@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 27, 2017 01:46 ET (06:46 GMT)