The stock market in South Korea opened sharply lower and is trading in negative territory on Wednesday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices declined on disappointing retail sales data and a weak producer prices index report.

The Commerce Department said that retail sales fell 1.1% month-over-month in March following an upwardly revised 0.3% increase in February. The decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.3%. In another report, the Labor Department said that its producer price index fell 1.2% in March compared to economist estimates of a flat reading. Core producer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, were unchanged compared to the previous month.

However, better-than-expected financial results from Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson as well as positive comments by President Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke helped to limit the losses.

The Dow closed down 137.63 points or 1.7% at 7,920, the Nasdaq closed down 27.59 points or 1.7% at 1,626 and the S&P 500 closed down 17.23 points or 2.0% at 842.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently down $0.35 at $49.06 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery dropped $0.64 to $49.41 a barrel on Tuesday amid choppy trading, as traders await the weekly inventory report from the Energy Information Administration later in the day.

The benchmark KOSPI Index opened Wednesday's session at 1,322, sharply lower than its previous close of 1,343, and is currently trading at 1,335, down 8.03 points, or 0.60%.

The local currency, the Won, opened lower against the greenback at 1330 Won per US$, down from 1,323.50 Won, and is currently quoted at 1,333.50 Won per US$.

Financials are trading weaker. KB Financial Group is losing 3.57%, Shinhan Financial is declining 2.50% and Woori Finance is falling 2.63%.

In the auto space, Hyundai Motor is losing 1.66%, Kia Motor is declining 1.58%, and ]Ssangyong Motor is down 4.66%.

Technology stocks are trading mixed. While Hynix Semiconductor is gaining 1.08% and LG Electronics is advancing 3.94%, LG Display is losing 2.04%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is down 0.87%.

Among the shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is losing 0.94%, but Daewoo Shipping is adding 1.58% and Samsung Heavy Industries is gaining 1.60%.

Oil related stocks are also trading mixed. While S-Oil is unchanged from previous close, SK Holdings is losing 1.21%.

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