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(LEAD) S. Korea's current account surplus edges down in Feb.

All Headlines 10:04 April 04, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS comments in paras 6-7, 11-12)

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's monthly current account surplus edged down in February from a year earlier amid sluggish exports, central bank data showed Thursday.

The country's current account surplus came to US$3.6 billion in February, down from $3.9 billion a year earlier, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK). But it rose from the previous month's $28.2 billion.

The current account has been in the black for 82 straight months since May 2012.

The goods account surplus fell slightly to a nearly five-year low of $5.48 billion in February from $5.57 billion a year earlier due to a drop in exports amid slowing demand for semiconductors and petrochemical goods.

South Korea's exports, the key economic driver, slumped 11.4 percent on-year to $39.44 billion in February, while imports sank 12.6 percent to $36.47 billion.

The BOK said the goods account is expected to improve from next month on the back of a turnaround in crude oil prices.

Based on the latest customs data, the downside pace of exports and imports slowed down in March, with the former falling 8.2 percent and the latter decreasing 6.7 percent.

The services account deficit narrowed to $1.72 billion from a deficit of $2.61 billion a year earlier, marking the smallest loss since December 2016.

The decline came as the number of foreign arrivals jumped 15 percent on-year to 1.2 million in February, including 453,000 Chinese tourists, up 31.3 percent from a year earlier, and 213,000 Japanese visitors, up 26.7 percent.

South Korean departures rose 13.3 percent to 2.62 million in February from a year earlier.

"Despite a steady rise in the number of people going abroad, a deficit in the travel account has narrowed for months," the central bank said. "It is because South Koreans go overseas more often but spend less."

South Korean tourists spent an estimated $1,013 during overseas trips in January, down $1,131 from a year ago, the BOK added.

In February, the primary income tumbled to $360 million from $1.44 billion a year ago due to an increase in dividend payouts to foreign investors.

Bank of Korea (Yonhap)

brk@yna.co.kr
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