stock accounts-decline

SEOUL, April 5 (Yonhap) -- The number of active accounts for stock trading in South Korea declined in March from a month earlier amid a prolonged bear market stemming from rising economic and political uncertainties, data showed Friday.

South Korean investors held 18.9 million active stock accounts as of end-March, down 3.9 percent from 19.7 million accounts tallied in end-February, according to the data compiled by the Korea Financial Investment Association.

The number fell below the 19 million mark for the first time in 16 months. The figure was based on the number of active accounts with deposits higher than 100,000 won (US$88.6), with a transaction record in the past six months.

Market watchers said the decline came as the stock market continued to remain stagnant amid the rising economic uncertainties sparked by the weak yen and concerns over a possible spillover effect of the Cyprus bailout.

Japan has been making efforts to bolster quantitative easing by giving an extra push to the weak yen, which sounded alarm bells for the export-reliant South Korea as it inflicts foreign exchange losses on local exporters.

The rising tension with North Korea also dented investors' sentiment. North Korea has been issuing threats in response to military drills conducted by the United States and South Korea, and the latest United Nations sanctions.

South Korea's benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) closed at 1,959.45 on Thursday, down 2.9 percent from the first trading session of this year.

In contrast, the trading volume of bonds advanced 20.9 percent in March to 585.2 trillion won, compared to 483.9 trillion won tallied a month earlier, as investors switched to safer investment destinations.

Market watchers said investors' appetite for safer assets will continue to grow down the road on the heightening tension with North Korea. The communist country threatened Thursday to pull out its workers from the joint industrial complex located in the border city of Kaesong.

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