(ATTN: UPDATES figures in 5th para; CHANGES photo)
SEOUL, Feb. 25 (Yonhap) -- Business sentiment in South Korea deteriorated for March, due mainly to the impact of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak on industry, a local think tank said Tuesday.
The business survey index (BSI) of the country's top 600 companies by sales came to 84.4 for March, sharply down from the 92 given for February, the Korea Economic Research Institute (KERI) said in a statement.
KERI's analysis for this month gave an index of 78.9, the lowest figure in 132 months, as the new COVID-19 coronavirus spreads quickly in the country, it said. It was 62.4 in February 2009.
"Eight out of 10 companies came under the influence of the new coronavirus outbreak and business sentiment in the fields of tourism, transportation, automobiles and petrochemicals has shrunk sharply," a KERI official said.
South Korea had reported 977 confirmed coronavirus cases and 10 deaths as of Tuesday.
A reading below 100 means pessimists outnumber optimists, while a figure above the benchmark means the opposite.
The BSI has stayed below 100 for 58 consecutive months since April 2015, when it was 101.3, said KERI, a research institute under the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI).
It said 440 out of the 600 companies responded to the survey, which was conducted Feb. 12-19.
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