Seoul shares hit record, Kookmin advances


(Updates to mid-morning)

SEOUL, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Seoul shares gained 1.5 percent to brush a lifetime high on Monday, led by exporters such as Samsung Electronics on expectations of lower U.S. interest rates, while energy stocks gained as oil prices rallied to a fresh record.

Kookmin Bank , South Korea's top lender, gained 2.82 percent to 76,500 won. The firm is expected towards the end of the trading session to post a mild rise in quarterly profit after selling a stake in an insurance company. [ID:nSEO346557]

"Expectations are growing the Fed will cut the rates, though there's no consensus over whether it would be by 25 basis points or 50," said Kim Joong-hyun, an analyst at Goodmorning Shinhan Securities.

"Good earnings from U.S. companies are also boosting investor appetite for equities."

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) was up 1.25 percent to 2,053.14 points by 0113 GMT, after earlier rising as much as 1.5 percent to scale a record peak of 2,059.20 points.

Investors snapped up exporters, betting that the U.S. Federal Reserve would cut rates when it meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, brightening the outlook for South Korea's second-biggest export market.

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd , the world's top memory chip maker, advanced 1.5 percent to 540,000 won, while LG Electronics Inc rose 1.8 percent to 90,600 won.

Hyundai Motor , South Korea's top automaker, also jumped 5.44 percent to 69,800 won and second-ranked Kia Motors Corp rose 0.92 percent to 10,950 won.

But Hynix Semiconductor Inc fell 3.61 percent to 25,450 won, as investors fretted the stock's 15 percent gain on Friday was excessive given the outlook for persistently weak computer memory chip prices.

Refiners were led higher by GS Holdings as U.S. crude futures extended gains to a new record high of $92.40 a barrel in early electronic trade on Monday, paving the way for higher refining margins.

GS Holdings jumped 6.23 percent to 64,800 won while S-Oil advanced 0.88 percent to 80,500 won.

Shares in oil trading firm SK Networks surged 7.8 percent to 22,850 won following a media report that Merrill Lynch and UBS have been picked to lead manage the sale of a stake in the company, despite a denial from an SK Network creditor.



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