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(2nd LD) S. Korea's current account surplus narrows to US$98.68 billion in 2016

All Headlines 14:34 February 03, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with estimate of this year's surplus in paras 6-7; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Feb. 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's current account surplus narrowed 6.8 percent in 2016 from a year earlier due to sluggish outbound shipments, central bank data showed Friday.

The country's current account surplus reached US$98.68 billion in 2016, compared with a surplus of $105.94 billion a year earlier, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The figure represents a surplus for 58 months in a row. The current account is the biggest measure of cross-border trade.

Exports fell 5.7 percent on-year to $511.78 billion in 2016, declining for the third year in a row. Imports also dropped 7 percent to $391.33 billion, falling for the fifth consecutive year.

Chung Kyu-il, director general of the Economic Statistics Department at the BOK, blamed the decline in exports on weak overseas demand, the strike at Hyundai Motor Co., and Samsung Electronics Co.'s halt on the production of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone.

Chung Kyu-il, director general of the Economic Statistics Department at the Bank of Korea, speaks to reporters in Seoul on Feb. 3, 2017. (Yonhap)

The BOK said South Korea's current account surplus could narrow to $81 billion this year, citing an upward trend in oil prices and U.S. protectionism.

Dubai crude spot prices traded at an 18-month high of $54.94 per barrel on Thursday.

The BOK said the service balance deficit widened to an all-time high of $17.61 billion in 2016 from $14.92 billion a year earlier.

The record deficit in the service balance was attributed to a sharp deterioration in construction and transport balances, despite modest improvement in the travel balance, said Chung.

The travel balance deficit narrowed to $9.43 billion in 2016, compared to a $10.06 billion deficit in 2015. The BOK said the balance of transport swung to a $630 million deficit in 2016 from $4.63 billion surplus a year earlier. It is the first such deficit in 20 years due to a global slump in the transport sector and the collapse of Hanjin Shipping Co., South Korea's No. 1 shipping line.

The BOK said the construction balance surplus narrowed to $8.69 billion in 2016 from $9.64 billion as Middle East countries cut their orders due to a decline in oil prices.

In the primary income account, which includes wages and investments, the country posted a surplus of $1.46 billion in 2016, compared to a surplus of $3.57 billion a year earlier.

The BOK also said South Korea's overseas direct investments stood at $27.27 billion in 2016 while foreign investments in South Korea came to $10.83 billion.

The value of foreign securities held by South Korea's investors hit an all-time high of US$63.04 billion last year.

(2nd LD) S. Korea's current account surplus narrows to US$98.68 billion in 2016 - 2

entropy@yna.co.kr
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