South Korean consumer confidence jumped in April as concerns over the economic downturn eased among households on positive current balance and increased assets value such as stock prices.

Consumer confidence that measures sentiment in six categories stood at 98 in April, up from 84 last month, the Bank of Korea reported Tuesday. The April reading was the highest since the central bank started to compile monthly series in July 2008.

However, a reading below 100 indicates that pessimists outnumber optimists.

The indicator measuring assessment of current living standard climbed 12 points to 82 in April and that for prospective living standard rose 17 points to 95. Assessment of economic situation jumped to 65 from 35 last month and expectations of domestic economic situation surged to 100 from 64.

Meanwhile, consumer sentiment on prospective prices dropped 11 points to 131 in April and the expected inflation slid to 4% from 4.2%, reflecting downward trend in exchange rate.

The survey was conducted by the Bank of Korea among 2,200 households in 56 major cities from April 14 to 21.

In February, the current account had shifted to a surplus of US$3.68 billion from the previous month's US$1.64 billion deficit.

Averting a technical recession, the South Korean economy unexpectedly expanded 0.1% sequentially in the first quarter of 2009, following a 5.1% decline in the fourth quarter. Household spending rose 0.4%, while government expenditure grew 3.6%.

The central bank forecasts the economy to contract 2.4% this year, which would be the first GDP fall since 1998. The economy is expected to recover in 2010 by rising 3.5%.

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