* Base rate kept at 2.50 pct (Reuters poll: 2.50 pct)
* Bank of Korea seen raising rates from late 2014
* Outgoing governor's term ends March 31
By Christine Kim and Jungmin Jang
SEOUL, March 13 South Korea's central bank kept
interest rates steady for a 10th straight month on Thursday, as
expected, as it eyes offshore risks and a slow domestic economic
recovery amid low inflationary pressures.
The Bank of Korea held its base rate steady at
2.50 percent, a media official said without elaborating.
Governor Kim Choong-soo will hold his final post-meeting news
conference at 11:20 a.m. (0220 GMT) before his term ends this
All 24 analysts surveyed in a Reuters poll had predicted the
central bank would hold rates on Thursday, while a majority
viewed the central bank's next policy move as a hike.
Investors will now shift their focus to next week's
confirmation hearings for Lee Ju-yeol, the nominee to succeed
Kim, for clues on the central bank's policy
"There is much optimism in the market, as private
consumption is gradually picking up. Growth this year may not be
huge, but it will be enough to bring some confidence back into
the economy," said Moon Hong-cheol, a fixed-income analyst at
Dongbu Securities in Seoul.
Recent data shows that Asia's fourth-largest economy has
been gradually on the mend.
Housing prices have risen steadily since late last year
after a record period of declines, while the job participation
rate hit a 15-year high last month, boding well for the
government's goal to boost employment.
The central bank expects economic growth to pick up to 3.8
percent this year and 4.0 percent in 2015, from 2.8 percent
estimated for last year.
Other indicators, however, suggest the central bank may have
to wait a while before starting to raise rates from their lowest
level since early 2011.
Consumer inflation eased to a four-month low of 1.0 percent
in January, well below the central bank's target band of 2.5 to
3.5 percent, although it has forecast inflation will rise to 2.8
percent in the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, exports rose a weaker-than-expected 1.6 percent
year-on-year in February after falling 0.2 percent in January,
while manufacturing activity contracted last month for the first
time in five months.
Markets largely shrugged off Thursday's policy decision. The
won was up 0.3 on the day at 1,067.1 per dollar as of
0118 GMT, while lead March futures on 3-year treasury bonds
were down 0.01 point at 105.95. The stock market's KOSPI
index was up 0.2 percent at 1,935.97 points.