Hana Financial Group Inc. led South Korean banks lower in Seoul trading as the country’s antitrust agency widens its probe of key money-market rate collusion.
Hana Financial dropped 2.6 percent to 33,200 won at the close on the Korea Exchange, the lowest level since Sept. 28. The benchmark Kospi index gained 1.6 percent. The 10-member KRX Banks Index lost 1.9 percent to the lowest close since Sept. 26.
South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission said yesterday it visited 10 brokerages and nine banks as part of its investigation and plans to review whether companies colluded to fix certificate of deposit rates. The commission’s probe comes amid widening scrutiny from global financial regulators into interest-rate manipulation that led to more than $450 million in fines for Barclays Plc last month.
“It’s a drag on banking stocks,” Kim In, an analyst at Eugene Investment & Securities Co., said by phone today. “If the agency finds any collusion, banks will be fined. Even if no illegal activities are found, the government will try to induce banks to lower the rate, which should be negative for their margins.”
South Korea’s 91-day certificate of deposit rate is a benchmark for bank lending, interest swaps and floating yields for bonds. The rate had remained unchanged at 3.54 percent from April 9 to July 12, when it fell by 27 basis points to 3.27 percent following an unexpected central bank rate cut, according to data compiled by Korea Financial Investment Association. It fell 1 basis point to 3.22 percent today, according to the association.
Woori Finance Holdings Co.’s shares lost 4.1 percent in Seoul, while KB Financial Group Inc. declined 1.4 percent and Shinhan Financial Group Co. fell 2 percent.
Officials from Financial Services Commission, Finance Ministry and Bank of Korea plan to discuss developing a short-term rate to replace the CD rate benchmark and ways to enhance transparency in calculating the rate, according to an e-mailed statement today.
-- With assistance from Seonjin Cha in Seoul. Editors: James Gunsalus, Brett Miller