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Bank of Korea holds steady again on rates, trims growth forecast

Central bank keeps policy rate unchanged as inflation and economic growth ease

South Korea's economy has cooled on sluggish exports and narrowly avoided recession in the first quarter.   © Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) -- South Korea's central bank held interest rates steady for a third meeting on Thursday, as expected, after a 1 1/2-year-long tightening cycle and as both inflation and economic growth eased.

The Bank of Korea announced its seven-member monetary policy board voted to keep its policy rate unchanged at 3.50%, without elaborating. Gov. Rhee Chang-yong is due to hold a news conference soon.

The decision matched the prediction from all 40 economists surveyed by Reuters. Most of the respondents forecast the next rate change would be a cut, probably during the final quarter of this year.

The Bank of Korea started raising interest rates in August 2021 to tame inflation, well before the world's other major central banks, and had raised them by a total of 300 basis points through January this year.

The Bank of Korea also announced it has cut this year's economic growth forecast to 1.4% from 1.6% forecast in February, while keeping this year's inflation projection unchanged at 3.5%.

Rhee has indicated on several occasions that the central bank's growth forecast will likely be lowered.

Asia's fourth-largest economy has cooled on sluggish exports and narrowly averted recession in the first quarter. Inflation has slowed since peaking in July last year but still stands far above the central bank's 2% target.

Fresh data showed Thursday the annual producer inflation rate halved in April to 1.6% from 3.3% in March, touching its lowest in more than two years, underscoring a broad view of sustained easing of inflation pressure.

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