SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) — South Korean banks’ lending rates inched up in February amid a slight decline in deposit rates, central bank data showed Tuesday.

The average interest rate charged on new bank loans came to 2.74 percent in February, up 0.02 percentage point from the previous month, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The BOK cut the key interest rate to a record low of 0.5 percent in May last year after delivering an emergency rate cut of half a percentage point in March to cushion the impact of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The central bank kept the base rate steady last month amid heightened economic uncertainties over a new wave of global coronavirus infections.

The average rate for bank deposits, meanwhile, came to 0.85 percent in February, down 0.02 percentage point from a month earlier, the BOK said.

South Korean lenders’ loan-deposit spread, a gauge of banks’ profitability from lending, stood at 1.89 percent in February, up 0.04 percentage point from a month earlier.

This file photo shows a bank official explaining a loan product to a visiting customer. (Yonhap)