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Won Rises to Highest Since 2008 on Wider Current-Account Surplus

The won rose to the strongest level since 2008 after South Korea said its current-account surplus widened last month and before data forecast to show export growth accelerated in April.

The excess in the broadest measure of trade increased to $7.35 billion in March from a revised $4.5 billion in February, the central bank reported today. Overseas shipments gained 5.5 percent this month from a year earlier, after rising 5.1 percent in March, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts before data due May 1. Speculation exporters will repatriate earnings at the month-end before local financial markets shut for holidays on May 1, 5 and 6 also supported the won.

The South Korean currency appreciated 0.5 percent to 1,030.57 per dollar at the close in Seoul, data compiled by Bloomberg show. The won touched 1,030.49 earlier, the strongest since August 2008. One-month implied volatility, a gauge of expected moves in the exchange rate used to price options, rose three basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 6.63 percent.

“South Korea’s current-account surplus trend continues to support a stronger won, and exporters’ dollar selling was concentrated today as the month-end approached,” said Kim Do Hee, a Seoul-based currency trader at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. “Events in North Korea aren’t affecting markets much as their words and actions don’t match.”

North Korea began a firing drill today to the north of the western sea border, Yonhap News reported, citing the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff. No shells have fallen south of the sea border, according to the report.

Intervention Level

The level at which South Korean authorities are expected to intervene in the currency market to limit gains in the won will likely be altered to near 1,000 won per dollar, from 1,050, as exports improve and inflows into won-denominated assets, Jeong Mi Young and Jeon Seung Ji, Seoul-based analysts at Samsung Futures Inc. wrote in at report today.

Overseas investors have bought $2.9 billion more South Korean equities than they sold this month, exchange data show.

Government bonds were little changed. The yield on the nation’s 3.125 percent government bonds due March 2019 was 3.17 percent, according to Korea Exchange data.

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