SEOUL, June 5 (Yonhap) — Emboldened by a recent market bull run, South Korean retail investors are scrambling to borrow money to buy shares in anticipation of price gains down the road, data showed Friday.

Outstanding margin loans to retail investors stood at 11.4 trillion won (US$9.3 billion) as of Wednesday, according to the data from the Korea Financial Investment Association.

It marks the first time in 20 months that the amount has surpassed the 11 trillion-won mark.   

Margin loans refer to those that retail investors take out from brokerages to invest in stocks. An increase in outstanding margin loans usually points to rising investor hopes for price gains.’

Outstanding margin lending has been on a steady increase after falling to the 6 trillion-won level in late March.

Market watchers said the surge in margin loans shows retail investors’ confidence has recovered to the level before the full-fledged spread of the novel coronavirus.

It also comes as the local stock market has remained strong on expectations for the reopening of major economies.

Extending its winning run to the fifth consecutive session, the benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended 0.19 percent higher at 2,151.18 on Thursday, the highest close since Feb. 21.