No. of employees at brokerage firms falls for 5th quarter

SEOUL, May 28 (Yonhap) -- The number of employees at brokerage houses in South Korea has declined for the fifth consecutive quarter, mainly due to a continuing slump in the local stock market amid lingering global jitters, data showed Tuesday.

The number of workers at 62 local securities firms stood at 42,317 at the end of the first quarter ending in March, compared with 43,820 tallied as of end-March last year, according to the data by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

The figure marks a fall for the fifth straight quarter, dropping from 43,586 in June, to 43,091 in September and to 42,802 in December last year, the FSS said.

The number of their branches also declined 9.5 percent to 1,590 from 1,756 over the cited period, it added.

The ongoing reduction in employees came as the local stock market has remained sluggish, with the yearly turnover plunging 30.7 percent on-year to 1.55 trillion won (US$1.38 billion) as of end-March, the FSS said.

Lingering fear of a weaker yen contributed to weighing down the market, since it hurts local exporters' profitability as it makes Korean products relatively more expensive than those produced by Japanese companies in the global market.

Such unfavorable conditions have hit brokerage firms' earnings hard. Their commission income dipped 32.2 percent on-year to 3.7 trillion won in fiscal 2012, leading to a 43.9 percent tumble in their net profits for that year.

Analysts said the personnel reductions at brokerage firms are expected to continue for some time, as the market won't likely gain strong momentum in the near future.

Since brokerage firms have run out of profit sources in the jittery market, fresh efforts to secure new ways of bolstering profitability, such as increasing mergers and acquisitions (M