South Korea's central bank is widely expected to freeze the key interest rate for the fifth straight month in October amid downside risks from a partial U.S. government shutdown and debt ceiling talks, a poll showed Monday.
All 16 analysts forecast that the Bank of Korea (BOK) will freeze the benchmark seven-day repo rate at 2.5 percent on Thursday, according to the survey by Yonhap Infomax, the financial news arm of Yonhap News Agency.
Analysts said that the BOK is likely to take a wait-and-see stance as Asia's fourth-largest economy faces lingering external uncertainty while the local economy has not yet shown a sustained recovery.
"There is growing external uncertainty such as impacts from the partial U.S. government shutdown and looming deadline over the U.S. debt ceiling," said Lim Noh-joong, an economist at IM Investment & Securities Co. "Korea's growth momentum is not yet strong and inflation pressure is low, which would make the BOK change its policy course."
The U.S. government's shutdown and Congressional deadlock over a deal to raise the U.S. debt limit are stoking some concerns over their negative impacts on the nascent recovery of the world's largest economy.
The Korean government said that the immediate impact of the U.S. government's temporary shutdown is not likely to be significant on the Korean market, but it said it will keep close tabs on any developments as a prolonged impasse could increase market volatility.
On the home front, the Korean economy is on a recovery track, but its growth momentum is not seen as sustainable because domestic demand still remains weak, experts say.
On Thursday, the BOK will also unveil its revised growth forecast for 2013 and 2014. The central bank's 2013 and 2014 growth estimates stood at 2.8 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
Korea's inflationary pressure remains subdued as the consumer prices are running below the BOK's 2.5-3.5 percent inflation target band. Korea's consumer inflation grew 0.8 percent in September from a year earlier, the slowest pace in 14 years, due to falls in prices of farm products.
Experts in the poll said that the BOK will likely stand pat on the benchmark rate for a considerable period of time and the bank's next move would be a rate hike.
"The BOK may begin to consider changing its monetary policy direction in the first half of next year when the Federal Reserve ends its bond-buying stimulus program," said Yoon Yeo-sam, a fixed-income analyst at KDB Daewoo Securities Co.
The Fed surprised the market in September by delaying tapering its US$85 billion monthly bond purchases. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said in June that the U.S. central bank could start dialing back its bond purchases later this year and possibly end them by mid-2014.