SEOUL, Dec 13 (Reuters) - South Korea's central bank held interest rates steady for a second consecutive month on Thursday and offered little indication on its future policy as it maintained a cautious view on the economy.
A majority of the analysts surveyed before Thursday's policy meeting saw another rate cut over the next few months but chances appeared to be easing as Asia's fourth-largest economy shows some signs of recovery from a year-long slump.
- Base rate kept at 2.75 pct vs 2.75 pct forecast
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- HIGHLIGHTS from news conference
- CHRONOLOGY on rate changes
- Reuters survey: 15 out of 16 analysts surveyed forecast the Bank of Korea would hold rates steady on Thursday while keeping the door open for another cut in early 2013.
KIM HYO-JIN, ECONOMIST, DONGBU SECURITIES
'The Bank of Korea will likely hold the rates through the first half of next year, but it's still hard to forecast whether the rate will change in the second half.'
'Kim mentioned a lot about external uncertainties, especially the United States. So, I think external circumstances will play an important role for the BOK's rate policy in the future.'
WAI HO LEONG, REGIONAL ECONOMIST, BARCLAY'S CAPITAL, SINGAPORE
'No rate change is likely to happen until March next year when a new administration will be in place, barring a macro shock from the U.S. A risk condition is whether the government that emerges from the election will take a hard line on larger companies and dampen investment sentiment.'
'Governor Kim seemed concerned about sluggish demand at home. Our view is that the elections will matter for domestic demand as well.'
RONALD MAN, ECONOMIST, HSBC, HONG KONG
'Today's decision hasn't changed our view. We maintain our call for the Bank of Korea to keep rates at 2.75 percent until H2 2013, when an export-led recovery will generate demand-pull inflation, prompting the Bank of Korea to resume its rates normalisation process.'
- Local markets showed muted reaction to the widely expected decision and the governor's news conference. The won was up 0.3 percent against the dollar as of 0300 GMT, while December futures on three-year treasury bonds were down 0.06 points. Seoul stocks were up 0.5 percent.
- South Korea's export-reliant economy grew just 0.1 percent in the third quarter over the previous three months as companies slashed investment in production facilities, the worst in three and a half years.
- The Bank of Korea said after releasing the third-quarter gross domestic product data that South Korea's economic growth for the whole of this year would likely fall short of its forecast of 2.4 percent.
- South Koreans will head to polling stations on Dec. 19 to elect their next president, whose top mission will likely be focused on easing debt burden at households and boosting welfare spending for the poor.
(Reporting by Christine Kim, Somang Yang, Daum Kim; Editing by Choonsik Yoo) Keywords: KOREA ECONOMY/RATES
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