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SEOUL, Dec 5 (Reuters) - South Korea's foreign exchange reserves increased in November for the first time in four months and by the largest amount in 13 months, central bank data showed on Monday, as the U.S. dollar retreated from a two-decade high scaled in October. The country's FX reserves stood at $416.10 billion at the end of November, up $2.09 billion from $414.01 billion a month before, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK). The reserves increased in November by the largest amount since October 2021. Of the 13 months since then, they fell for 10 months, hitting a more than two-year low at the end of October this year. The U.S. dollar index fell 5.1% in November, the biggest monthly drop in more than 12 years.
Bank of Korea's Rhee 'not so sure' about digital currencies
  + stars: | 2022-12-02 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
SEOUL, Dec 2 (Reuters) - South Korea's central bank governor Rhee Chang-yong said he became sceptical of the benefits of new technologies related to Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC), after recent events in the cryptocurrency market. "I was more positive before, but after seeing the Luna, Terra, and now the FTX issues ... I don't know (if) we will see the real benefit of this new technology, at least for monetary policy," said Rhee, a panelist at a session on digital currency. The market saw another rout last month, after one of the world's biggest crypto exchanges FTX filed for bankruptcy, with crypto lending company BlockFi following suit. Reporting by Jihoon Lee; Editing by Clarence FernandezOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
[1/2] South Korea's new central bank governor Rhee Chang-yong speaks during his inauguration ceremony in Seoul, South Korea April 21, 2022. But he added that South Korean interest rates should not get too far below those of the United States, because of the risk of capital outflow. With the policy rate now at 3.25%, Rhee hopes it will not have to go much higher. It is the first time that the central bank governor has specified a level around which he hopes rates will peak. The Fed's policy rate is currently 3.75% to 4.00%.
SEOUL, Nov 30 (Reuters) - South Korea's central bank is ready to readjust the pace of its policy tightening to respond to an economic slowdown and a slumping property market, the bank's governor told the Reuters NEXT conference on Wednesday. But Rhee Chang-yong declined to say whether the Bank of Korea would stop raising interest rates before the U.S. Federal Reserve, though he added that it was now better able to take into account domestic factors than before. The Bank of Korea, which was among the first central banks of major economies to start raising rates in August last year, has lifted the benchmark rate by a total of 275 basis points from a record low figure of 0.5%. Reporting by Cynthia Kim, Choonsik Yoo and Jihoon Lee; Editing by Clarence FernandezOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
SEOUL, Nov 30 (Reuters) - South Korea's factory output dropped in October by more than expected and at the fastest pace in nearly 2-1/2 years, government data showed on Wednesday, amid weakening demand due to a global economic slowdown, and aggressive rate hikes. The country's industrial output fell by a seasonally adjusted 3.5% in October from a month earlier, accelerating from a revised 1.9% decline in September, according to Statistics Korea. It missed economists' expectations of a 1.0% fall tipped in a Reuters survey and marked the fastest decline since May 2020. Output for the services sector fell 0.8%, faster than 0.2% a month before and the fastest since Dec. 2020, while retail sales lost 0.2%. The country's factory output fell 1.1% on a yearly basis, also below 0.0% expected in the survey, snapping a 12-month streak of annual gains.
FRANKFURT, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Risks in the German financial system are building as the economy heads for a recession and struggles with rising interest rates and sky-high energy prices, but a correction in the housing market is not imminent, the Bundesbank said on Thursday. "The macro-financial environment has deteriorated substantially," the Bundesbank said in a Financial Stability Review. Still, the Bundesbank did not expect a significant correction in house prices, which were in the past seen 15% to 40% overvalued. "A worsening energy crisis, a sharp economic slump and abruptly rising market interest rates could put the German financial system under considerable pressure," the bank added. Extreme volatility in energy prices sharply increased the collateral requirements of central counterparties in derivatives trading but government measures cushioned the liquidity shortage and the overall supply of credit "has worked well", it said.
"The economy is picking up moderately," the government said on Thursday, using the same description it has in every monthly report since July. The government would stay vigilant to the risks ahead, saying the global slowdown from monetary tightening could hurt Japan's economy. Tokyo also kept its view unchanged on private consumption, which accounts for more than half of Japan's economy, saying it was "picking up moderately". The report said spending on services such as restaurant dining and accommodations was recovering, although rising prices were weighing on consumer sentiment. The government left its view unchanged that capital spending was recovering thanks to solid corporate earnings, while it said exports and imports were "almost flat".
The eagerly awaited readout of the Nov. 1-2 Fed meeting showed officials were largely satisfied they could now move in smaller steps. The dollar index , which measures the greenback against six major peers, was down 0.14% at 105.75, after sliding 1% overnight. The minutes also showed an emerging debate within the Fed over the risks that rapid policy tightening could pose to economic growth and financial stability. Rising coronavirus cases have led Chinese cities to impose more curbs, increasing investor worries about the economy and putting a lid on risk appetite. The Australian dollar rose 0.25% to $0.675, while the kiwi was 0.17% higher at $0.6255.
The eagerly awaited readout of the Nov. 1-2 Fed meeting showed officials were largely satisfied they could now move in smaller steps. The dollar index , which measures the greenback against six major peers, was down 0.066% at 105.830, after sliding 1% overnight. The minutes also showed an emerging debate within the Fed over the risks that rapid policy tightening could pose to economic growth and financial stability. The Australian dollar rose 0.25% versus the greenback at $0.675, while the kiwi was 0.26% higher at $0.625. The Japanese yen strengthened 0.54% versus the greenback to 138.84 per dollar.
For months, President Nicolas Maduro's administration has sought to fight inflation by anchoring the bolivar's exchange rate. It has increased the supply of foreign currency cash in local banks and limited the expansion of credit and public spending. The local currency has depreciated 17% since October, and 55% so far this year. Both economists said the government may be fine with letting the exchange rate slide a little more, if it allows them to spend again. The central bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
TOKYO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Japan's manufacturing activity contracted at the fastest pace in two years in November as demand worsened due to strong inflationary pressures, a business survey showed on Thursday. The au Jibun Bank Flash Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) slipped to a seasonally adjusted 49.4 in November from a final reading of 50.7 in the previous month. Output contracted at the quickest pace in 26 months, falling for the fifth consecutive month, the survey results showed. Activity in the services sector stagnated even as new business inflows grew for a third straight month, the data showed. The au Jibun Bank Flash Services PMI Index came in at a seasonally adjusted 50.0 in November, down from the previous month's 53.2 final, the survey showed.
SEOUL, Nov 24 (Reuters) - South Korea's central bank raised interest rates by a more modest 25 basis points on Thursday, as expected, slowing the pace of policy tightening as it tries to tame inflation without choking off economic growth. The Bank of Korea (BOK) raised its benchmark policy rate (KROCRT=ECI) to 3.25%, the highest level since July 2012, after delivering a half-percentage point hike in October. All but one of 30 economists expected the central bank to opt for a quarter-point hike in a Reuters poll, while one forecast another half-point rise. The Bank of Korea has raised the policy rate by a total of 275 basis points since August 2021 from a record low of 0.50%. Reporting by Cynthia Kim, Jihoon Lee and Choonsik Yoo; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da CostaOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The Bank of Korea (BOK) raised its benchmark policy rate (KROCRT=ECI) to 3.25% on Thursday, the highest level since 2012, after delivering a half-percentage point hike in October. The BOK is in the midst of its most aggressive policy tightening on record, having been a front-runner in withdrawing pandemic-era stimulus in the region when it started raising interest rates in August 2021. Since then, it has raised rates by a total of 275 basis points, delivering bigger 50-basis-point rate hikes for the first time since the current monetary framework was introduced in 1999. The central bank aims to keep inflation at 2%. The slowdown in the tightening pace has also been facilitated by a rebound in the local currency.
Meanwhile, the downturn in euro zone business activity eased slightly in November, offering a glimmer of hope the expected recession there may be shallower than feared, but consumers still cut spending amid a cost of living crisis. However, November is the fifth month the index has been below the 50 mark separating growth from contraction. But in France activity contracted for the first time since February 2021 as lower new orders weighed on the euro zone's second-biggest economy. Activity in the bloc's dominant services industry declined again, with the headline index matching October's 20-month low of 48.6. Manufacturing activity, particularly hard hit by soaring energy prices and disrupted supply chains, also declined but at a slower pace.
South Korea producer inflation hits 16-month low in Oct
  + stars: | 2022-11-23 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
SEOUL, Nov 24 (Reuters) - South Korea's annual producer inflation slowed for a fourth straight month in October to a 16-month low, central bank data showed on Thursday. The producer price index stood 7.3% higher in October than the same month a year ago, according to the Bank of Korea (BoK), after a revised 7.9% rise in September. Producer inflation had hit a near 14-year high of 10.0% in June. On a monthly basis, however, the index rose 0.5%, picking up from a revised 0.1% in September and the fastest in four months. The monthly rise was led by utility prices for electricity, gas, water supply and waste, which jumped 8.1%.
SEOUL, Nov 23 (Reuters) - South Korean manufacturers' business sentiment for December dropped to a more than two-year low, a central bank survey showed on Wednesday, amid growing economic uncertainties and persistently high inflation. The business outlook index for the manufacturing sector fell to 70 for December on a seasonally adjusted basis from 75 for November, according to the Bank of Korea's monthly survey of companies. In the survey, manufacturers cited economic uncertainty as the biggest difficulty, accounting for 22.7% of total responses, followed by rising raw material prices (18.5%) and weak domestic demand (11.4%). The index for non-manufacturers also inched down to 76 for December, from 77 for November, hitting the lowest since March 2021. Reporting by Jihoon Lee; Editing by Bradley PerrettOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
SEOUL, Nov 21 (Reuters) - South Korea's exports for the first 20 days of November shrank 16.7% from the same period a year ago, dragged down by weak demand for chips and from China, customs agency data showed on Monday. The country's imports fell 5.5%, bringing the trade balance to a $4.42 billion deficit, on track for an eighth straight month in the red. Shipments to China dropped 28.3%, while those to the United States and European Union were up 11.0% and down 1.5%, respectively. By product, sales of semiconductors fell 29.4% and wireless communication devices lost 20.6%, but those of cars and petroleum products gained 28.6% and 16.1% each. Full Monthly trade data will be available on Dec. 1.
SEOUL, Nov 17 (Reuters) - South Korean households' quarterly income declined on the year for the first time since the second quarter of 2021, government data showed on Thursday, amid cooling economic growth and surging inflation. Disposable income for households nationwide fell 3.6% in real terms in the third quarter from the same period a year earlier, according to the Statistics Korea data. The decline came just after a record-high 8.3% rise in the second quarter. In the third quarter, South Korea's economic growth fell to its slowest in a year, as poor net exports offset pent-up spending, while consumer prices jumped 5.9% over a year earlier, the fastest in nearly 24 years. Reporting by Jihoon Lee; Editing by Kenneth MaxwellOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
SEOUL, Nov 16 (Reuters) - South Korea's housing prices fell at the sharpest rate in at least 19 years in October, adding to expectations the nation's central bank will slow its pace of interest rate hikes in the coming weeks. In the capital Seoul, apartment prices declined 1.24%, the fastest since December 2008, extending losses to a ninth straight month. The national index for apartment transaction prices dropped 7.13% during the January-September period, on track for the biggest annual decline since that data was introduced in 2006. Analysts expect only one or two more interest rate hikes by the Bank of Korea for the remainder of this year and 2023 to take the terminal rate to 3.25% or 3.50%. South Korea's household debt-to-GDP ratios stood at 102.2% in the second quarter, data of 35 major economies from the Institute of International Finance showed.
SEOUL, Nov 15 (Reuters) - South Korea's export and import prices rose at slower paces in October, with the latter softening to a 15-month low, central bank data showed on Tuesday. The country's export prices, in terms of the won currency, rose 13.7% in October from a year earlier, according to the Bank of Korea's provisional data, slower than a revised 14.7% rise in the previous month. Import prices also rose at a slower annual rate of 19.8%, compared with a revised 24.2% gain in September, and it marked the slowest rate since July 2021. The slowdown came despite higher oil prices and a weaker currency than in the previous month, with Dubai oil prices and dollar-won exchange rates rising 0.2% and 2.5% on monthly average, respectively, according to the BOK. In October 2021, export and import prices jumped 26.1% and 36.3%, respectively, marking their fastest annual growth rates in more than 13 years.
SEOUL, Nov 10 (Reuters) - South Korea's monetary tightening should be done at a gradual pace because of the risks of an economic contraction, the top government research agency said, as it downgraded GDP growth forecasts. "Monetary policy needs to maintain the tightening policy stance for the time being to keep inflation expectations stable, but its rate hike pace should also consider the possibility of an economic slowdown," said the Korea Development Institute (KDI) in its biannual economic outlook report released on Thursday. The state-run think tank said interest rates need to be raised at a gradual pace, given the risks of the economy shrinking sharply, adding that conditions in South Korea do not require rate hikes as steep as those in the United Sates and eurozone. Growth forecast for this year was also lowered slightly to 2.7% from 2.8% previously, while annual consumer inflation projections were raised to 5.1% and 3.2% for 2022 and 2023, from 4.2% and 2.2%, respectively. Reporting by Jihoon Lee Editing by Shri NavaratnamOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Hours later, 30-year-old Jung Joo-hee was among 156 people, most of them in their teens and twenties, killed in the South Korean capital while celebrating Halloween free of COVID restrictions for the first time in three years. Mum and dad will come see you," Jung Hae-moon said as the family stood by, together with his daughter's pet poodle. It was impossible, I couldn't believe it," Lim's father said at a funeral home as he and his family observed funeral rites. "She was so creative and pretty," the man said, adding that he had often strolled with his daughter through Itaewon. They wonder why their children were celebrating Halloween in the first place, a totally foreign concept for older Koreans.
SEOUL, Nov 1 (Reuters) - South Korea's exports in October fell the most in 26 months while a trade deficit persisted for a seventh month, underscoring that Asia's fourth-largest economy is slowing and its currency is hovering near 13-year lows. The outlook remains dark as the global economy is losing momentum on a global wave of policy tightening to contain inflation. A survey by S&P Global of purchasing managers at South Korean manufacturing companies also showed new export orders in October fell for an eighth consecutive month as the global economy is slowing. As a result, the country posted a trade deficit of $6.70 billion, bigger than a shortfall of $3.78 billion in September and the seventh consecutive month of imports outweighing exports. Reporting by Choonsik Yoo and Jihoon Lee; Editing by Rashmi Aich and Gerry DoyleOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
South Korea's Oct exports post worst fall in 26 months
  + stars: | 2022-11-01 | by ( ) www.reuters.com   time to read: +1 min
SEOUL, Nov 1 (Reuters) - South Korea's exports in October suffered their fastest decline in more than two years and missed expectations as shipments to neighbouring China tumbled, government data showed on Tuesday. Exports by Asia's fourth-largest economy fell 5.7% from a year earlier to $52.48 billion in October, posting their biggest percentage fall since August 2020 and missing a median 3.0% loss tipped in a Reuters survey. South Korea also marked its first annual decline in exports since October 2020. Imports, though, jumped 9.9% to $59.18 billion, against a 6.9% gain expected in the Reuters poll. Reporting by Choonsik Yoo and Jihoon Lee; Editing by Rashmi AichOur Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
SEOUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Across South Korea, events such as autumn foliage festivals and K-Pop concerts are canceled, and grief-stricken communities are putting off gatherings after a Seoul crowd crush killed at least 154 people, threatening to crimp growth further. Universities have canceled weekend retreats known as MTs, and the opening event of the two-week Korea Sale Festa, the Korean version of the Black Friday, was called off. South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju called off the Jeju Olle Walking Festival, scheduled from Nov 3 to 5. The Korea Baseball Organization and Korea Volleyball Federation both said there won't be cheerleaders during its championship series. South Korea's economic growth already decelerated last quarter in response to slowing exports and a weakening currency.
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