Bank of Korea keeps key interest rate at 2%

SEOUL: South Korea's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged Tuesday at a record low for a third straight month amid signs the country's slumping economy is improving.

The Bank of Korea kept the benchmark seven-day repurchase rate at 2 percent at a regular monthly policy meeting. The central bank slashed the rate six times from Oct. 9.

South Korea's export-driven economy, battered by declines in global consumer demand that have caused plunges in exports and industrial output, has been fighting its worst slowdown since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Asia's fourth-largest economy grew 0.1 percent in the first quarter, however, amid signs government efforts to stimulate the economy are working. The growth, though marginal, marked a turnaround from a contraction of 5.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

South Korea's trade surplus hit a record high for the second straight month in April as imports fell sharply on cheaper costs for oil and as declines in exports eased, the government said earlier this month.