Investors focus on outcome of impeachment vote

Investors focus on outcome of impeachment vote

With a parliamentary vote to impeach President Park Geun-hye two days away, the glare of investor attention is focused on its outcome with a rejection more likely to increase stock market volatility than a passage, analysts said Wednesday.

Opposition parties and some ruling party lawmakers are slated to put an impeachment motion against President Park to a vote at the plenary session of the 300-member National Assembly on Friday — the first such case since 2004. Park has snubbed mounting public calls for her resignation over a corruption scandal involving her and her longtime friend.

The motion requires support from two-thirds of the legislators to pass parliament. Once passed, it will then be reviewed by the Constitutional Court, during which Park will be suspended from her duties and the prime minister will take over as acting president.

Most analysts predict that if history is any guide, a rejection of the impeachment motion will more likely add to the stock market’s uncertainty.

The benchmark Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) tumbled 5.7 percent over four sessions until March 12, 2004, when lawmakers voted to impeach late former President Roh Moo-hyun. About a month later, however, the index recovered to the level before the impeachment motion was submitted.

“The blowback from a rejection is unpredictable,” said Kim Yu-kyum, an analyst at LIG Investment & Securities Co. “An absolute majority of the people wants Park to be impeached. If parliament votes down the motion, demonstrations may turn violent, making foreign investors jittery.”

Kim added that a passage of the bill will not aggravate the nation’s economic chaos further because President Park is faced with a situation where she is effectively unable to run state affairs.

Cho Byung-hyun, a researcher at Yuanta Securities Co., echoed Kim’s view. “The Brazilian stock market began its upturn following the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in late August, shaking off the pre-impeachment doldrums,” he said.

Some analysts pointed out that a passage of the impeachment motion against Park would help reduce the uncertainty of the local stock market.

“Investors dislike uncertainty. The impeachment is not good news, but a rejection is feared to make the market more uncertain,” said Lee Jong-woo, a senior analyst at IBK Securities Co.

Others forecast that the result of the upcoming impeachment vote will have less impact on the stock market than 12 years ago.

“This time, the outcome of the vote could be relatively limited,” said Oh Hyun-seok, a senior analyst at Samsung Securities Co. “Back in 2004, the market was blindsided by surprise impeachment proceedings.”

Indeed, the key index of the main market finished up 1.35 percent Tuesday on the back of brisk foreign and institutional buying.

Watchers, meanwhile, paint a rather gloomy picture of the stock market following the impeachment vote, citing several political variables and the country’s current economic situation. “There appears limited downside risk, but it is difficult to say of an upward trend,” said Park Sang-hyun, an analyst at Hi Investment & Securities Co.


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