RTTNews - Korean stocks edged higher in early trading on Monday but have pared most of their gains subsequently with investors choosing to lighten commitments at higher levels. Cues from Wall Street are not any significantly positive but a smaller-than-expected decline in nonfarm payrolls has helped lift hopes of a U.S. recovery.

The Korean benchmark index KOSPI rose to 1,411 after opening around its previous closing mark, but very nearly drifted down into the red a little while ago. Currently, the index is trading at 1,402, up 6.9 points at 0.49%.

The KOSPI had ended sharply higher on Friday, fueled by bargain hunting among the financial and technology sectors. The index jumped 16.57 points or 1.2 percent to close at 1,395.

Technology stocks are trading firm with LG Display LCD leading the pack with a sharp 3.75% gain. LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics are up by 1.3% and 1.2%, respectively. Hynix Semiconductor is down by about a percent.

Energy and oil stocks are trading firm. Oil stock SK Holdings is up 3.7% and S-Oil is trading more than a percent up. Energy stock KEPCO is up by 4.2%. Among steel stocks, Hyundai Steel is up 1.4% and POSCO is trading modestly higher.

In the automobile space, Ssangyong Motor is up sharply by 4%. Kia Motors is gaining a percent while Hyundai Motor is up marginally over its previous close.

Among bank stocks, Korea Exchange Bank has moved up sharply and is currently trading 4.4% up. However, Woori Finance, Shinhan Financial and KB Financial are trading in the red.

Shipbuilding, airlines and telecom stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

The South Korean central bank had confirmed on Friday that the country's gross domestic product unexpectedly rose 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to the previous quarter. The preliminary estimate in April came up with the same figure, and allowed South Korea to avert a technical recession after the 5.6 percent quarterly fall in the previous three months.

On an annual basis, GDP was revised slightly higher from -4.3 percent to -4.2 percent. Analysts had been expecting a 4.6 percent decline after the 3.4 percent contraction in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Among other markets in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and Singapore are trading firm. The markets in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taiwan are trading weak. The New Zealand market is trading modestly lower while the Australian exchange is closed today for Queen's Birthday.

On Wall Street, stocks finished Friday's trading mostly lower after a lackluster performance. The major averages ended the day on opposite sides of the unchanged line, as traders were cautious following an employment report indicative of some signs of life in the labor market.

The major averages finished the choppy session on a mixed note. While the Dow finished up by 12.89 points at 8,763, the Nasdaq slipped by 0.60 points to 1,849 and the S&P 500 edged down by 2.37 points to 940.

The stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region had finished notably higher on Friday. The major European markets also ended higher. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index finished up by 1.2 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index closed up by 0.8 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively.

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