Tue, Apr 03, 2012 - Page 10 News List

Moody’s raises S Korea’s credit outlook to positive

Bloomberg

South Korea’s credit rating outlook was raised by Moody’s Investors Service to positive from stable, boosting demand for the nation’s assets.

“Very strong and improving fiscal fundamentals,” were a key reason for the change, along with resilience in the country’s external financing position, Moody’s said in a statement yesterday. The rating remains at A1, the company’s fifth-highest grade.

The KOSPI Index has advanced 11 percent this year as global investors bought US$9.6 billion more South Korean shares than they sold last quarter, the biggest net inflows since September 2009, exchange data show.

The won gained almost 4 percent and bond risk fell for a second consecutive quarter as Asia’s fourth-biggest economy reduced banks’ reliance on US dollar funding, a vulnerability during the global financial crisis, and Moody’s said the nation is set for “relatively strong” economic growth.

“This should be positive for foreign investor sentiment toward [South] Korea, and should help to increase net capital inflows,” said Kwon Young-sun, a Hong Kong-based economist at Nomura Holdings Inc.

North Korea’s regime under Kim Jong-un has yet to cause any significant elevation of risk, the ratings company said.

“Our sovereign rating is expected to rise in a year — this is really a good news when many other countries suffer rating downgrades,” South Korean Deputy Finance Minister Choi Jong-ku said in Gwacheon yesterday. “Moody’s outlook change comes after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, which means they believe that geopolitical risks are under control.”

FISCAL PRUDENCE

Fitch Ratings last November upgraded the outlook for South Korea’s long-term foreign currency rating to “positive” from “stable,” and affirmed the A+ grade. It cited strengthening sovereign creditworthiness with resilient economic growth, moderate public debt and long-standing fiscal prudence.

South Korea joins Asian nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines that may be poised for upgrades as the region’s growth outpaces the rest of the world. Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said on March 23 that he is confident about a rating increase after meeting with officials from Standard & Poor’s.

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