SEOUL, May 3 South Korea's foreign exchange reserves leapt by the most in nine months during April, central bank data showed on Tuesday, with the sharp increase underpinning market talk of dollar-buying intervention to curb the won's gains.
The reserves added $8.58 billion to $307.20 billion as of end-April, their highest ever, versus $298.62 billion at the end of March, the Bank of Korea said in a statement.
It was the biggest monthly gain since an $11.74 billion rise in July 2010 and compared with a $0.95 billion rise in March.
A stronger euro and pound boosted the translated value of dollar-denominated assets, together with investment income, it added. Non-dollar assets represented 36 percent of the reserves at the end of last year.
Local authorities have been spotted intervening in the forex market to control the pace of the won's gains, only to be outweighed by heavy dollar offers from exporters thanks to booming overseas shipments.
The won gained 2.35 percent to the dollar in April, bringing its year-to-date gain to 6 percent to 32-month highs as of the end of last month.
By comparison, the euro advanced 4.5 percent against the U.S. dollar last month and the pound gained 4.2 percent, according to the Bank of Korea.
South Korea's FX reserves, ranked seventh in the world at the end of March, have logged sequential monthly growth since last December.
The won is expected to strengthen further as the dollar has been under pressure on expectations U.S. monetary policy will stay loose. South Korean policymakers are also seen easing their grip on the won to contain imported inflation.
South Korea's foreign reserves (in $ billion, at end-month): April March Feb Jan Dec Nov Oct 307.20 298.62 297.67 295.96 291.57 290.23 293.35 (Reporting by Kim Yeonhee and Lee Soo-jung; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)
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