Monday, 16 September, 2019

Central bank chief urges active fiscal policy to spur economic

A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul on July 15 A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul on July 15
Russell Knight | 18 July, 2019, 16:26

The Bank of Korea said on Thursday its Monetary Policy Board voted to cut its policy rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 1.5 percent.

The central bank also trimmed down this year's growth outlook to 2.2 percent from an earlier projection of 2.5 percent in April when it slashed its outlook to 2.5 percent from 2.6 percent three months earlier following a contraction in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year.

The central bank says the Board believes the pace of global economic growth is continuing to slow, mainly due to the trade dispute between the USA and China. -China trade conflict was unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Analysts say it is too early to estimate the damage but the curbs could affect South Korea's economy at least by hurting profits at the country's computer chip and smartphone makers as well as hitting sentiment for consumption and investment.

The gap between the policy rates of South Korea and the US has now widened to 1 percentage point, which could cause an outflow of foreign investment from the local market in the future.

Bank of Korea Governor Lee Ju-Yeol said a continuation of the row with Japan would have "no small impact" on the South Korean economy.

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In a separate report, Kyodo news cited Japanese government sources as saying Tokyo would reject Seoul's request to hold another working-level meeting to discuss the export controls.

South Korea is also bracing for the possibility that Japan will take further steps by removing it from a 27-country "whitelist" receiving preferential treatment in trade.

"The addition of the Japan-South Korea trade tensions into the mix was perhaps the final straw that tipped the BoK over into calling for a rate cut, against a market consensus of a 15/10 hold/cut", said Howie Lee, an economist at OCBC Bank.

Its removal from the list would require Japanese companies to apply for case-by-case approvals for exports to South Korea of hundreds of items deemed sensitive, not just the three materials affected by the trade curbs that took effect July 4.

The Japanese export restrictions came in protest against the South Korean top court's rulings that ordered some of Japanese companies, including Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries among others, to pay compensations to the South Korean victims who were forced into hard labor without pay during the 1910-45 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

"It wouldn't be ideal for export restrictions to worsen", he said. South Korea's economy grew 2.7 percent in 2018.

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