AI ‘euphoria’ and EV bets drive South Korea market rally

South Korea’s $1.8tn inventory market is approaching bull market territory, as international buyers pile into AI shares and native buyers snatch up EV battery-related shares.

The tech-heavy Kospi has rallied 18 per cent this 12 months, becoming a member of a surge of different indices within the area, together with Japan’s Topix and Taiwan’s Taiex, that has been pushed largely by searing features for chipmaker shares.

In distinction, Chinese language shares are falling over doubts about its financial restoration, with Hong Kong’s Hold Seng down 2 per cent this 12 months and CSI 300, China’s key benchmark of onshore-listed firms, down 1 per cent.

International funds purchased a web Won12tn ($9.5bn) of Korean shares this 12 months after a three-year hiatus, spending about Won10.5tn on Samsung Electronics inventory.

The rally has been pushed by know-how {hardware} exporters, with international buyers returning to rising markets as considerations over the impression of the US Fed’s charge elevating cycle ease. It follows a deep rout final 12 months, triggered by charge hikes, excessive inflation and South Korea’s slowing financial system.

Samsung Electronics, which accounts for over 20 per cent of the Kospi index, is the largest contributor, surging practically 40 per cent from a September low.

Fellow chipmaker SK Hynix additionally offered the second-biggest enhance as abroad buyers wager that the worldwide AI race will gas demand for chips, following the launch of ChatGPT in November and Nvidia’s current rally.

“The AI-related euphoria served as a set off for the chipmakers’ rally on prime of rising expectations for the trade’s upturn within the second half,” mentioned Lee Chai-won, chair of Life Asset Administration.

Native buyers are shopping for shares of firms which can be a part of the EV provide chain. Korean battery producers and producers are anticipated to learn from the fast enlargement of the worldwide EV market and the US Inflation Discount Act, which is geared toward curbing China’s management of the inexperienced power sector.

LG Power Answer, the world’s second-largest battery maker, has shot up 38 per cent thus far this 12 months, whereas steelmaker Posco Holdings, whose subsidiaries have made a collection of upstream investments within the international battery provide chain, has rallied 42 per cent.

Shares of the nation’s 4 greatest Ok-pop businesses — Hybe, SM Leisure, YG Leisure, JYP Leisure — have all gone up by not less than a 3rd this 12 months, double the Kospi’s advance and outperforming international recording labels resembling Common Music Group and Warner Music Group.

“There are nonetheless some macroeconomic dangers however buyers appear to suppose that the worst is over,” mentioned James Lim, an analyst at US hedge fund Dalton Investments. “They’re flocking to sectors with secular, structural development whatever the financial cycle, resembling batteries, AI and leisure.”

Lim added that Korean shares nonetheless stay largely low cost, with the Kospi index buying and selling at a price-to-book ratio of under one instances, in contrast with two instances for Taiwan’s Taiex and Japan’s Nikkei index, and over 4 instances for the US S&P 500 index.

However analysts additionally expressed warning, noting that Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, which each produce superior reminiscence chips in China, have discovered themselves caught up within the intensifying tech rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

In a current be aware, analysts from Fitch Rankings argued that the 2 chipmakers’ credit score profiles “can soak up” current measures together with US export controls on superior chip know-how and a Chinese language ban on chips made by US rival Micron.

Nonetheless, they acknowledged that “extra excessive rulings or bans” may impression Samsung and SK Hynix’s scores.

Choi Joon-chul, head of VIP Analysis & Administration, additionally argued that “a few of the battery-related shares are overshooting their fundamentals,” noting they have been being pushed by demand from enthusiastic Korean retail buyers.

“Overseas funds are flowing into the market once more after heavy promoting final 12 months,” mentioned Lee. “However there’s a restrict with this technical rebound, with out enhancements in fundamentals.”

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