(Updates to close)
By Kim So-young
SEOUL, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Seoul stocks hit an all-time high on Tuesday, as an improving earnings outlook helped lenders such as Kookmin Bank rebound from recent losses, while hopes for fatter profits in 2006 also catapulted Samsung Electronics to a record high.
But broader gains were capped as investors worried Hynix Semiconductor Inc. and LG Electronics Inc. may have overreached during a recent rally.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index rose 0.44 percent to end at 1,373.55, just off an all-time high 1,376.77 hit earlier in the session.
The index has gained 53 percent so far in 2005.
"Today's move was largely technically driven, with sharp recent gainers retreating and some financials and car makers bouncing back from sluggishness," said Oh Hyun-seok, an analyst at Samsung Securities.
"The market may take a breather after a recent record-setting rally but the upward trend seems intact given a sustained economic recovery."
Top local lender Kookmin Bank gained 2.64 percent to 77,800 won, just off a record high 77,900 won hit earlier in the session, lifted by hopes its domestic demand-focused operations will give it an edge over local rivals next year.
Second-ranked Shinhan Financial Group advanced 1.81 percent to 42,150 won, bouncing back after a 4 percent slide over the past five sessions.
Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. hit a record high for a fourth consecutive session as investors bet explosive demand for NAND flash memory chips, used in hot-selling music players and digital cameras, will boost earnings next year.
Samsung, the world's largest memory chip maker, rose 1.22 percent to end at 662,000 won after earlier hitting a record high 664,000 won.
Leading local car makerMotor Co. rose 3.16 percent to 97,900 won on expectations solid shipments and a recovering domestic market would bring in robust profits. The stock shed 3.8 percent over the prior seven sessions.
Car shipper Glovis Co. Ltd. rose by its daily 15 percent limit to 56,200 won for a second session since its debut on Monday, with investors optimistic growing shipments byMotor and Kia Motors Corp. will boost its earnings.
But LG Electronics, the world's fourth-largest mobile phone maker, fell 1.83 percent to 91,000 won, giving up some of the 15.2 percent gains seen last week alone.
Hynix Semiconductor, the world's second-largest memory chip maker, fell 2.51 percent to end at 33,000 won, after gaining 15.7 percent last week.
Trade volume reached 415 million shares worth 4.1 trillion won compared to 382 million shares worth 3.9 trillion won on Monday. Decliners outnumbered gainers by 406 to 355 with 69 titles ending flat.
Foreign investors were net sellers for an eighth consecutive session, bringing their total sales over the period to a net 798.75 billion won ($789.5 million).
The March KOSPI 200 futures index rose 1.20 points to 175.70, while the underlying KOSPI 200 spot index advanced 0.93 point to 177.20..
The junior tech-heavy Kosdaq ended 1.48 percent lower at 688.23.
Move on day +0.44 percent
12-month high 1,376.77 27 DEC 2005
12-month low 866.17 10 JAN 2005
Change on yr +53.3 percent
All time high 1,376.77 27 DEC 2005
All time low 93.10 06 JAN 1981 ($1=1011.6 Won)