RTTNews - Shrugging off a slightly negative start, the Korean market is trading firm on Thursday, with investors picking up bank, telecom and shipbuilding stocks amid mixed cues from Wall Street.

The benchmark index KOSPI, which opened at 1,429 and rose to 1,444 in late morning trade, is currently up with a modest gain of 4 points at 1,435.

On Wednesday, the KOSPI had ended in negative territory amid lackluster trading characterized by thin volumes, as traders exercised caution ahead of earnings season in the U.S. Despite bargain hunting in late trading the index ended with a loss of 3.18 points or 0.22% at 1,431.

The central bank of South Korea, as expected, has keep interest rates steady for a fifth straight month at a record low of 2% amid signs of an economic revival and stable inflation. Key bank stocks are all trading sharply higher on strong buying support. KB Financial is trading higher by as much as 5%, Woori Finance is up 4.4% and Shinhan Financial Group is gaining around 3%. Korea Exchange Bank, remaining slightly subdued, is up by close to 1.5% at present.

Shipbuilding stocks, which had a few weak outings in recent sessions, are in demand. Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Samsung Heavy Industries are trading higher by 0.5% - 1.7%. Bulk carrier STX Pan Ocean is up by over 3%.

Telecom stocks SK Telecom and KT Corp are up by 1.1% and 1.5%, respectively. Steel makers Hyundai Steel and POSCO are trading modestly higher. Airliners Korean Airlines and Asiana Airlines are trading firm.

In the automobile space, Kia Motor and Hyundai Motors are trading weak, while Ssangyong Motors is up with a modest gain. Among oil stocks, SK Holdings is trading lower, while S-Oil is up by 1.3%. Energy stock KEPCO is trading modestly higher.

Technology stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend. Hynix Semiconductor and LG Electronics are down by over 1%, while Samsung Electronics and LG Display LCD are trading higher by 0.7% and 1.7%, respectively.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Indonesia are trading weak while Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan are trading in positive territory. Markets in the region had ended lower on Wednesday.

Wall Street ended little changed on Wednesday with traders not evincing any keen interest in taking up positions ahead of the start of the earnings season. The major averages closed on opposite sides of the unchanged mark by slim margins, with the S&P 500 closing modestly lower despite a late-session rally. The Dow closed up by 14.81 points or 0.2% at 8,178 and the Nasdaq rose by 1 point or 0.1% to 1,747, while the S&P 500 fell 1.47 points or 0.2% to 880.

Major European markets also ended the day in the red. The French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index fell by 1.3% and 1.1% respectively, while the German DAX Index closed down by 0.6%.

Oil plunged for a sixth straight session and reached its lowest level in seven weeks on Wednesday. Prices dropped on government data that revealed a build in gasoline and distillate fuel supplies in the recent week.

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