Tue, Aug 11, 2009 - Page 11 News List

IMF more optimistic on S Korea

AFP AND DPA , WASHINGTON AND SEOUL

The IMF on Sunday revised upward its economic forecast for South Korea, forecasting that GDP would shrink by just 1.75 percent for this year.

“Faced with a sluggish recovery in demand from trading partners, and highly leveraged households and SMEs [small and medium enterprises], Korean growth is projected at -1.75 percent in 2009 and 2.5 percent in 2010,” the IMF said in its annual report on the country’s economy.

Just a month earlier, on a trip to Seoul, IMF officials indicated they were expecting GDP to shrink by 3 percent this year. In February, officials were even less upbeat, predicting a 4 percent contraction for the year.

The forecast for next year is unchanged from the July predictions.

Among the risks factored into their forecast, the IMF cited “a distinct possibility that weak global exports will weigh on Korean growth well beyond 2010.”

“Other risks to the outlook are another bout of global risk aversion, rising oil prices, or — on the upside — a stronger impact from stimulus measures in Korea and abroad,” the report said.

The IMF said South Korea’s won remains “undervalued” despite its recent appreciation of close to 30 percent in the last five months against the dollar.

“Directors took note ... that the won is undervalued relative to its medium-term equilibrium level, and expected this trend to be reversed as capital inflows regain momentum,” the report said.

The group added that “the weak won redirected domestic demand from imports to domestic production,” adding that “the current global crisis has highlighted the urgency of rebalancing Korea’s growth toward the nontradable sector.”

Meanwhile, South Korea posted strong manufacturing output gains in the second quarter, buoyed by corporate resumption of inventory increases, central bank data showed yesterday.

Manufacturing production expanded 8.2 percent in the April-to-June period from the preceding three months, the fastest growth since 8.2 percent was logged in the fourth quarter of 1973, according to data released by the Bank of Korea.

But compared with the same period a year ago, manufacturing production fell 7.9 percent in the April-June period.

Still, South Korea’s economy recorded its strongest growth in five-and-a-half years in the second quarter thanks to increased government spending and record-low interest rates.

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