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South Korea export downturn slows down, trade balance swings to surplus

CNA – South Korea’s export downturn slowed in June, with auto exports extending robust rises and semiconductors narrowing their decline, as the bellwether Asian economy posted its first trade surplus since early last year.

Shipments from Asia’s fourth-largest economy, offering one of the earliest snapshots of monthly global trade, fell 6.0 per cent in June from a year earlier to USD54.24 billion in June, narrowing from a 15.2 per cent drop in May, Trade Ministry data showed yesterday.

The ministry said the improvement in the trade balance might pause in July and August due to seasonal factors but was expected to get back on track and exports swing back to growth.

The export drop was deeper than the 3.0 per cent forecast in a recent survey but still the second smallest in a downturn that began in October. Exports of semiconductors fell 28.0 per cent, the smallest decline in eight months.

Automobile exports rose 58.3 per cent, extending gains to a 12th month, while ship exports jumped 98.6 per cent.

Shipments to China fell 19.0 per cent, the smallest decline since October, while those to the United States fell 1.9 per cent in their third month of decline. Exports to the European Union rose 9.2 per cent.

Imports fell 11.7 per cent to USD53.11 billion, narrowing from a 14.0 per cent fall the previous month but slightly steeper than the 11.0 per cent decline expected by economists.

As a result, the country posted a trade surplus of USD1.13 billion in June after 15 months of deficits for the export-reliant economy.

A truck drives between shipping containers at a container terminal at Incheon port in Incheon, South Korea. PHOTO: CNA