UPDATE 3-S.Korea's KOSPI hits 3,000 for the first time in history

* KOSPI breaks 3,000 mark some 13-1/2 yrs after reaching 2,000

* KOSPI index surged 30.8% in 2020 even as foreigners sold shares

* Analysts expect rally to continue as vaccine aids recovery (Updates with market close, adds analyst comment, details)

SEOUL, Jan 6 (Reuters) – South Korea’s main KOSPI index briefly broke above 3,000 for the first time on Wednesday, as investors driving the steepest rally in years look towards a broad recovery in exports beyond the country’s tech titans.

The benchmark KOSPI closed down 0.75% at 2,968.21, surpassing 3,000 for the first time in early trade after seven straight sessions of gains.

Nicknamed as the “Boxpi” among local investors prior to the coronavirus pandemic because of its narrow trading range, the index broke the 3,000 mark some 13-and-a-half years after hitting the 2,000 milestone in mid-2007.

Heavy bets on a post-pandemic world took the index to a new record in the final quarter of 2020, even as South Korea is struggling with its largest coronavirus wave yet.

Beaten-down consumer, travel-related stocks are catching up with high fliers like biotech companies or chip makers, which outperformed the broader market last year.

“The new milestone means investors are now seeing the Korean market differently,” said Lee Jae-sun, an analyst at Hana Financial Investment, adding that dividend payouts were increasing and shareholder return policies improving.

The KOSPI index surged 30.8% in 2020, its largest annual percentage gain since 2009, driven by tech shares.

Shares in Samsung Electronics have almost doubled in price since last year’s lows in March, while stocks in tech giants Kakao and Naver also rallied in 2020.

The stock market surge came even as foreign investors sold a net total of $20.1 billion South Korean shares last year, according to Refinitiv data.

The KOSPI’s decline on Wednesday came as investors sold shares in Samsung Electronics and car makers such as Hyundai Motor as they mulled the implications of a potential Democratic victory in tight U.S. Senate elections.

“Both institutional investors and foreign investors offloaded shares as they braced for a Democrats win,” as it could mean more taxes and regulations, Lee Kyoung-min, an analyst at Daishin Securities said.

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