Consumer sentiment up for 3rd month in February amid moderating inflation, export recovery

SEOUL, South Korea's consumer sentiment rose for a third consecutive month in February amid moderating inflation, a recovery in exports and hopes for an end to the Federal Reserve's rate hikes, a central bank poll showed Tuesday. The composite consumer sentiment index stood at 101.9 in February, up from 101.6 the previous month, according to the survey conducted by the Bank of Korea (BOK). A reading above 100 means optimists outnumber pessimists. The February figure marks the highest since August 2023, when the corresponding reading was 103.3. The central bank said consumer sentiment improved amid a slowdown in inflation, a rebound in exports and the growing expectations for an end in the Fed's rate-hiking cycle. Inflation expectations fell this month compared with the previous month amid a downward trend in consumer prices, the survey showed. This month, ordinary people expect consumer prices to stay flat at 3.0 percent for the year ahead, compared with the previous month. The figures are closely wat ched, as their upward move could cause businesses to raise prices and people to ask for pay raises, thereby resulting in more upward pressure on inflation going forward. South Korea's inflation fell below 3 percent for the first time in six months in January, showing signs that inflationary pressure is easing. Consumer prices, a key gauge of inflation, rose 2.8 percent on-year last month, compared with a 3.2 percent increase a month earlier. The central bank said earlier the slowdown in inflation may be slower than expected down the road. Last month, the bank held its key interest rate steady at 3.5 percent for the eighth straight time amid a slowdown in growth and still high inflation. The rate freeze comes after the BOK delivered seven consecutive rate hikes from April 2022 to January 2023. Source: Yonhap News Agency