Tech bull case resurfaces in Korea with big rally, taking stock

A woman walks past an advertisement for the Samsung Electronics Galaxy Note 9 smartphone at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea. (Bloomberg pic)

HONG KONG: As Samsung Electronics unveils the next generation of its smartphones Wednesday, investors will no doubt be looking for a better showing from the mobile giant after a difficult 2018.

Based on the hot start from Samsung shares, they already seem to be counting on South Korea’s biggest stock to succeed.

It has surged 21% so far in 2019, recovering almost all of its 24% plunge from last year.

The gains have propelled the benchmark Kospi Index to a 9% advance this year, one of the best jumps in the region amid a wider rally thanks to growing optimism of a US-China trade deal.

On Wednesday, the South Korean benchmark was one of the biggest gainers among national gauges in Asia.

Foreign investors are the biggest buyers of Samsung stock this year, already gobbling up a net 2.61 trillion won (US$2.33 billion) of shares, the most of any company in the Kospi, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Domestic institutions and individuals, meanwhile, are net sellers.

Given Samsung’s size – the stock accounts for about a fifth of the Korean benchmark – the buying has been a key contributor to total foreign inflows of more than US$4.1 billion for the market this year.

That’s the most among Asian countries after China.

The tech behemoth is not the only stock off to a quick start in Korea.

Rival SK Hynix has actually climbed even more, with a 25% advance this year as a plan to boost dividends 50% offset disappointing earnings in January.

The pair were the biggest drivers of the Kospi Wednesday, pushing the index to its highest level since October and helping lead a third straight advance for the regional MSCI Asia Pacific Index.

Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan also gained, while the CSI 300 Index was flat.

Traders are still digesting the latest headlines on the trade negotiation front.

The US is asking China to keep the value of the yuan stable, a move aimed at neutralising any effort by Beijing to devalue its currency to counter American tariffs, according to people familiar with the ongoing talks.

Negotiations resumed Tuesday in Washington, with the Mar 1 deadline looming next week.