SEOUL, May 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korean stocks ended slightly higher Friday, as chip giants rose sharply on hopes for a market turnaround despite concerns about a deal on the United States' debt ceiling. The local currency rose against the U.S. dollar.
The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index added 4.12 points, or 0.16 percent, to close at 2,558.81, ending a two-day decline. Trading volume was a bit slim at 618.73 million shares worth 9.26 trillion won (US$6.99 billion), with losers far outpacing gainers 672 to 193.
The index opened slightly higher and moved within a tight range, as a foreigners' buying spree offset institutional and individual sell-offs.
Offshore investors picked up a net 910.55 billion won worth of shares, while retail and institutional investors shed a net 412.89 billion won and 505.44 billion won worth of shares, respectively.
Investor appetite for major semiconductor shares was boosted as U.S. chipmaker Nvidia surged more than 24 percent Thursday (U.S. time) as the company posted stronger-than-expected revenue guidance. The strong performance led the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite to jump 1.71 percent.
But the overall sentiment remained weak as talks on the U.S. debt ceiling have been in limbo as the June 1 deadline approaches.
Global credit appraiser Fitch Ratings warned that the U.S. credit rating could be downgraded if a debt ceiling deal was not reached soon, according to experts.
"Uncertainties linger over the U.S. debt ceiling deal, which could further negatively affect the broader economy. Investors are also paying attention to the future policy path of the Federal Reserve ahead of the June rate-setting meeting," Kiwoom Securities analyst Han Ji-young said.
The Fed is widely expected to freeze the benchmark rate next month, but the minutes of the Fed's latest meeting in May, released earlier this week, showed that officials were divided on whether to pause rate hikes.
In Seoul, market bellwether Samsung Electronics surged 2.18 percent to 70,300 won, the highest level in about 14 months. Chip giant SK hynix also spiked 5.51 percent to 109,200 won.
Carmakers also gained ground. Top automaker Hyundai Motor jumped 0.98 percent to 205,500 won, and its affiliate Kia grew 0.34 percent to 87,400 won.
But leading battery maker LG Energy Solution fell 0.86 percent to 578,000 won, and LG Chem tumbled 0.84 percent to 706,000 won. Samsung SDI sank 1.0 percent to 693,000 won.
Major bio firm Samsung Biologics fell 0.26 percent to 777,000 won, and Celltrion remained unchanged at 173,100 won.
No. 1 steelmaker POSCO Holdings retreated 1.23 percent to 360,500 won, and POSCO Future went down 0.92 percent to 324,000 won.
Platform operators also fell, with internet giant Naver decreasing 1.7 percent to 202,500 won and Kakao, the operator of the popular mobile messenger KakaoTalk, inching down 0.18 percent to 56,600 won.
The local currency ended at 1,324.5 won against the U.S. dollar, up 1.5 won from the previous session's close.