Consumer confidence improves for 2nd month

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Consumer confidence improves for 2nd month

Korean consumer confidence improved for a second consecutive month in March, boosted by signs of improvement in the U.S. economy and progress in containing Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, the central bank said yesterday.

The consumer sentiment index (CSI), which gauges consumers’ overall economic outlook, living conditions and future spending, stood at 101 for this month, compared with 100 the previous month, according to a survey by the Bank of Korea (BOK).

A reading above the benchmark 100 means optimists outnumber pessimists. The survey, based on a poll of 2,084 households in 56 cities nationwide, was conducted from March 13-20.

In the previous two months, there were more economic pessimists among Korean consumers, as the public debt crisis in Europe and the slowing growth of the domestic economy dampened their sentiment.

“Despite higher oil prices, consumer sentiment improved on the back of a bull run on the local stock market and eased concerns over the European debt crisis,” said a BOK official.

The expected inflation rate over the next 12 months was 3.9 percent, slightly slower than the previous month’s estimate of 4 percent, according to the central bank.

The annual increase in Korea’s consumer inflation slowed in February, but consumer prices gathered steam, compared with the previous month, earlier data show.

The country’s consumer price index rose 3.1 percent in February from a year earlier, slowing from a 3.4 percent gain in January. The index gained 0.4 percent on-month.

Meanwhile, Korea’s central bank left its key policy rate unchanged at 3.25 percent for the ninth straight month in March, as it maintained a wait-and-see stance to assess risks to inflation and growth, such as rising oil prices.


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