South Korea's import prices fell for the first time in three months in November thanks to the local currency's rise against the US dollar and a fall in crude oil prices, central bank data showed Thursday.
The import price index stood at 148.07 in November, down 5.3 percent from a month earlier, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea.
It was the first on-month decline following 3.4 percent and 1.2 percent gains reported for September and October, respectively.
Compared with a year earlier, the index jumped 14.2 percent but it was smaller than a 19.4 percent rise in the previous month.
The BOK said that the import price decline stemmed from the stronger won against the greenback that helped push down the costs of buying goods and materials from overseas. It also cited the crude oil prices' recent decline as a reason for a fall in import bills.
Prices of Dubai crude, South Korea's benchmark, were at $86.26 per barrel on average last month, down 5.4 percent from the previous month. The oil prices were still up 7.4 percent from a year earlier.
Import prices are being closely watched as they could have an impact on the country's overall inflation that has stayed high and caused the central bank to maintain hawkish monetary policy.
South Korea's consumer prices, a key gauge of inflation, have been showing signs of going down after hitting a peak in July when they soared 6.3 percent on a year-over-year basis, the highest in about 24 years. The prices rose 5 percent in November.
Since August last year, the BOK has hiked its benchmark interest rate by a combined 2.75 percentage points to tame inflation. It hiked the rate by a quarter percentage point at this year's last rate-setting meeting held in November. (Yonhap)