* Samsung Elec hits third lifetime high in four sessions
* Auto shares bullish on low valuation and steady fundamentals-analyst
* Other blue-chips mixed; shipbuilders and financials down
SEOUL, Dec 10 (Reuters) - South Korean shares closed flat on Monday after profit taking by local institutional investors pared early gains, though market heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co Ltd ended at an all-time high the third time out of the last four closes thanks to a positive earnings output.
The market's early gains were prompted by upbeat industrial output data from China and jobs numbersf from the United States, both published over the weekend, though Chinese trade data released on Monday took away some of the shine, as exports and imports were weaker than expected.
The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed almost unchanged at 1,957.42 points.
Although foreign investors were net buyers for the eighth session, local institutions weighed on the index by net selling some 244.8 billion won ($226 million) worth of KOSPI shares.
"As global risk appetites remain mostly unchanged, there were no particular movements in the local market," Lee Kyung-soo, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities.
Lee added that despite favourable overseas data released during the weekend, lacklustre corporate earnings will likely keep the main index range bound without a clear upside development such as agreement in Washington to avoid an the so-called fiscal cliff.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd rose 0.7 percent.
Auto shares were also bullish, continuing their trend of seesawing since late November's rapid gains on strong sales. Hyundai Motor Co rose 0.7 percent while affiliate Hyundai Mobis Co Ltd gained 1.9 percent.
"Investors are snapping up cyclical stocks on hopes that positive U.S. and China data means the economic cycle will rebound, and auto shares are preferred with their low valuation and steady fundamentals," said Ahn Se-hwan, an auto sector analyst at IBK Securities.
But other blue-chips were mixed, with shipbuilders such as Hyundai Heavy Industries Co Ltd and financial firms such as KB Financial Group Inc losing ground.
Decliners outnumbered gainers 465 to 364. The KOSPI 200 benchmark of core stocks closed up 0.1 percent, while the junior KOSDAQ edged 0.1 percent higher.
Move on day 0 percent
12-month high 2,057.28 14 March 2012
12-month low 1,750.60 19 Dec 2011
Change on yr +7.2 percent
All-time high 2,231.47 27 April 2011
All-time low 93.10 6 January 1981 ($1 = 1081.6500 Korean won) (Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)