The South Korean stock market on Friday saw an end to the five-day winning streak in which it collected more than 80 points or 7 percent. The KOSPI pulled away from resistance at 1,250 points, and now analysts are predicting that those losses could head further south at the opening of trade on Monday.

The global forecast for the Asian markets is fairly pessimistic, thanks to downbeat economic data out of the United States and a firmly negative lead from the European and American stock markets. Automobile stocks may be in focus on Monday after reports that Rick Wagoner will step down as General Motors Chairman and CEO in order to secure continued government aid for the embattled American auto maker.

The KOSPI finished lower on Friday as investors locked in gains from last week's winning streak. The financial stocks and the construction shares were particularly hard hit, cancelling out gains among the technology issues. The market still added 5.7 percent for the week.

For the day, the index eased 6.29 points or 0.51 percent to close at 1,237.51 after trading between 1,233.95 and 1,256.70. Volume was 694.3 million shares worth 6.9 trillion won.

Among the decliners, Shinhan Financial Group fell 3.6 percent, while Hana Financial Group lost 7.3 percent, Daewoo Engineering & Construction shed 4.2 percent and STX Shipbuilding dropped 2.5 percent.

Finishing higher, Hyundai Motor gained 2.6 percent, while Kia Motors added 0.8 percent, Samsung Electronics gained 2.5 percent and Hynix Semiconductor was up 2.6 percent.

The lead from Wall Street is decidedly negative as investors cashed in on some of the recent gains, causing weakness to prevail throughout Friday's trading session. Some of the weakness came as investors digested mixed economic news and kept a close eye on a meeting between President Obama and the CEOs of the nation's biggest banks.

The White House has confirmed that Wagoner will step down from his posts at GM, which has posted losses of $82 billion in the past four years and almost ran out of capital towards the end of 2008 before it received an emergency loan from the government. GM has since said that additional funding from the government would be required to continue operations and the Obama administration confirmed on Sunday that an additional loan may be provided - but Wagoner's resignation was a condition of the agreement.

In economic news, the Commerce Department released its report on personal income and spending in February, showing that spending increased for the second consecutive month. Personal spending rose 0.2 percent in February following an upwardly revised 1.0 percent increase in January. The increase was in line with the expectations of economists. Also, personal income edged down 0.2 in February after a downwardly revised 0.2 percent increase in the previous month. Economists had been expecting a slightly more modest 0.1 percent decrease.

The final reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for March was also released, showing a revised reading of 57.3. Economists had expected the consumer sentiment index to be lifted to 56.8 from the mid-month reading of 56.6.

Meanwhile, President Obama met with the CEOs of the country's biggest banks to discuss the economy and proposals to increase regulation of the financial system. The meeting came only days after the Obama administration revealed details on how they plan to improve the balance sheets of banks. At the close of the roundtable discussion, some of the CEOs mentioned that Obama had emphasized the need to work together to solve the financial crisis and lift the economy out of recession.

The major averages all ended the session firmly in negative territory after ending Thursday's trading at one-month closing highs. The Dow closed down 148.38 points or 1.9 percent at 7,776.18, the Nasdaq closed down 41.80 points or 2.6 percent at 1,545.20 and the S&P 500 closed down 16.92 points or 2 percent at 815.94. Despite the losses on the day, the major averages still closed higher for the third straight week due largely to the rally seen on Monday. The Dow rose 6.8 percent for the week, while the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 posted weekly gains of 6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively.

In economic news, South Korea will on Monday announce February numbers for its current account, with analysts predicting a surplus of $5.2 billion following the $1.4 billion deficit in January.

Also, South Korea's gross domestic product or GDP declined a revised 5.1 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter, reversing a 0.2 percent rise in third quarter, the Bank of Korea said on Friday. In January, the GDP was reported to have fallen 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter. Year-on-year, the GDP contracted 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter, matching the initial estimate. For the whole of 2008, the GDP grew 2.2 percent, slower than a 2.5 percent rise estimated earlier.

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