(ATTN: UPDATES with 2nd U.S.-N. Korea summit in last 2 paras)
SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- Foreign investors bought a net 4.05 trillion won (US$3.62 billion) worth of shares on the main KOSPI market in January, the highest monthly amount in 45 months, market data showed Wednesday.
According to the Korea Exchange (KRX), the total is the largest since April 2015, when overseas investors scooped up just under 4.65 trillion won in shares traded on the key bourse.
In the first month of this year, retail investors offloaded around 3.23 trillion won in shares, with institutions selling 843.1 billion won in stocks more than they bought.
"Reflecting the strong buying by foreign investors, who are big hands in the market, the overall KOSPI rose 8.03 percent last month," a KRX source said. "The index hit 2,203.46 as of last Friday, which is roughly on par with the average reading tallied in October 2018."
By company, foreign investors bought a large amount of shares issued by Samsung Electronics Co., while offloading SK hynix Inc.
Those two companies made up some 78 percent of all shares bought and sold by foreigners last month.
In addition, foreigners bought Korea Electric Power Corp., Samsung SDI, LG Chem and SK shares, with purchases being centered on semiconductors.
Market watchers said that focus is now on how long the net buying by foreign investors will continue.
A report, by NH Investment & Securities Co., predicted that the KOSPI will move within the 2,080-2,250 range for the near future. It said that compared with last year, market conditions are expected to improve going forward.
This prediction was shared by Mirae Asset Daewoo Co., which said while profit taking may weigh down the index, conditions should improve from the second quarter.
Others cautioned that investors need to do more in terms of risk management at least in the first quarter of this year.
On the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit planned for later this month in Vietnam, experts said the meeting could improve investor sentiment, although the event as a whole has already been factored into the market.
"The meeting needs to result in a move that outlines the lifting of sanctions for it to actually bolster the stock market," an analyst emphasized. He added that once such progress is made, shares of companies and industries that can benefit from greater inter-Korean cooperation may get a boost.