Sun, 07 Mar 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's central bank froze its policy rate at a record low on Friday for eight straight months amid lingering uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bank of Korea (BOK) Governor Lee Ju-yeol and six monetary policy board members decided to leave the benchmark seven-day repurchase rate unchanged at an all-time low of 0.50 percent. The rate was kept in place since May last year.

The rate freeze decision was in line with market expectations. According to a Korea Financial Investment Association (KFIA) survey of 100 fixed-income experts, all predicted the rate to be on hold.

Uncertainty remained over the COVID-19 pandemic amid the still high number of daily infections.

In the latest tally, South Korea reported 513 more cases of COVID-19 for the past 24 hours, raising the total number of infections to 71,241.

The daily caseload stayed below 600 for five straight days, but it hovered above 100 since Nov. 8. The daily number of infections peaked at 1,240 on Dec. 25.

To contain the virus spread, the government decided to maintain its five-tier social-distancing guideline in the Seoul metropolitan area at the second-highest level for six weeks through Jan. 17, hitting hard the services industry.

All the other areas, which exclude the capital region, were placed under the third-highest Level 2.0 social-distancing regulations.

Credit card spending was estimated to have reduced 16.2 percent in December 2020 from a year earlier, after sliding 2.4 percent in October and 4.2 percent in November last year respectively.

The index for sentiment among consumers over economic situations plummeted 8.1 points over the month to 89.8 in December 2020.

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