SEOUL, Jan. 26 (Yonhap) -- Seoul stocks surged over 1 percent Thursday, as foreign investors scooped up market heavyweights in the run-up to the corporate earnings season. The Korean won advanced against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) climbed 40.08 points, or 1.65 percent, to 2,468.65. Trading volume was moderate at 476.2 million shares worth 8.1 trillion won (US$6.58 billion), with gainers outpacing decliners 620 to 249.
Foreigners and institutional investors were net buyers at a combined 1.06 trillion won in equities. Retail investors sold a net 1.05 trillion won.
The KOSPI opened higher and continued to ascend throughout the session, bucking muted trading on Wall Street overnight as well as gloomy macroeconomic data from the central bank.
South Korea's economy grew at a pace of 2.6 percent last year due to weak exports and corporate investment, Bank of Korea data showed Thursday.
"The KOSPI was led by advances in the auto and secondary batteries sector, as foreigners went into buying mode following strong earnings results from Tesla Inc. and Hyundai Motor," analyst Seo Sang-yong from Mirae Asset Securities said.
"Foreign investors have been net buyers for 10 consecutive sessions and contributed in improving investor sentiment," Seo said.
Analyst Lee Kyoung-min from Daishin Securities said investors should keep a close watch on the upcoming Federal Open Market Committee meeting, as well as Samsung Electronics' conference call next week, as the two could give hints on the KOSPI market's future direction.
In Seoul, most market top-caps closed higher.
Market bellwether Samsung Electronics added 0.79 percent to 63,900 won, while smaller rival SK hynix advanced 0.98 percent to 92,300 won.
Top carmaker Hyundai Motor's shares surged 5.55 percent to 174,900 won following its earnings surprise in the afternoon. Its sister affiliate Kia also rose by 6.62 percent to 69,300 won.
Among decliners, bio firm Samsung Biologics dipped 0.38 percent to 795,000 won, cosmetics maker LG Household & Health Care declined 0.68 percent to 727,000 won, and chemical firm Lotte Chemical fell 0.33 percent to 183,200 won.
The local currency closed at 1,230.7 won against the greenback, up 1 won from the previous session's close.