import prices-February tally

SEOUL, March 13 (Yon hap) -- South Korea's import prices fell at a slower pace in February than the previous month as the pace of the local currency's appreciation to the U.S. dollar eased, the central bank said Wednesday.

In local currency terms, the country's import prices declined 8.6 percent in February from a year earlier, after falling 10.6 percent on-year in January, the sharpest fall in 39 months, according to the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The BOK said that the import prices fell at a slower clip as the pace of the won's gain eased last month. Import prices declined for the sixth straight month amid overall shrinking demand.

In February, oil prices fell 4.37 percent from a year earlier and the local currency appreciated an average of 3.4 percent to the dollar on-year last month, compared with 7 percent gain in the previous month.

But compared with a month earlier, import prices gained 2.7 percent on-month, the fastest on-month gain in 17 months after inching down 0.8 percent in January.

A turnaround came as oil prices picked up and the won depreciated to the greenback from January, the BOK said.

The BOK is scheduled to hold its monthly rate review session on Thursday with many analysts betting on a rate freeze for the fifth straight month.

Meanwhile, in local currency terms, South Korea's export prices fell 5.6 percent in February from the previous year after declining 8.1 percent on-year in January. They rose 2.4 percent on-month, compared with a 0.1 percent fall in January.

South Korea's exports account for about 50 percent of its economic output.

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