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S. Korea, U.S. sign $60 bln currency swap deal

According to Yonhap News,

SEOUL, March 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have signed a US$60 billion bilateral currency swap agreement, Seoul's central bank said Thursday, a move expected to relieve liquidity crunch caused by the global spread of the new coronavirus.

The currency swap line will be in place for at least six months, according to the Bank of Korea.

"The Bank of Korea (BOK) plans to immediately supply U.S. banknotes it secures via the currency swap arrangement and this is expected to help stabilize the local foreign exchange market that is showing a rapid change in the exchange rate due to a recent shortage of dollars," the BOK said in a press release.

The Korean won fell by 40 won to close at 1,285.70 won against the U.S. greenback Thursday, the lowest in over a decade as investors rush to the hard currency, deemed a safer asset.

The latest currency swap line marked the second of its kind to be signed with the United States, according to the BOK.

The first South Korea-U.S. arrangement, signed in October 2008, was originally set to expire after six months, but was twice extended until February 2010.

The arrangement helped bring the won-dollar exchange rate to 1,170 won per dollar in February 2010 from 1,468 won per dollar at its start in October 2008, the BOK said.

South Korea currently has bilateral currency swap arrangements with eight countries, including Australia, Canada and China.

They, together with a multilateral arrangement involving the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, are worth more than $193 billion, according to the BOK.

"The Bank of Korea will continue to work for the stabilization of the financial market through cooperation with the central banks of major countries," it said.

Early this week, South Korea took a series of steps to funnel more liquidity into the financial system and its economy amid the deepening global market rout and economic impact.

In particular, the country's financial authorities raised a cap on foreign currency forward positions for local banks to 50 percent of their equity capital, from the current 40 percent, in an effort to ease dollar shortage in the capital market.

South Korea, hit by the growing outbreak of COVID-19, has announced an extra budget worth 11.7 trillion won to help the economy chug along. The central bank also cut its policy rate by half a percentage point to a record low of 0.75 percent.

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Source: Yonhap News (Mar. 19 , 2020)

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