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(3rd LD) S. Korea's exports down 0.2 pct in March amid COVID-19 fallout

All News 11:36 April 01, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout)
By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's exports fell 0.2 percent in March from a year earlier in the face of the growing economic fallout from the new coronavirus pandemic, data showed Wednesday, missing a market consensus of 1.2 percent gain.

The country's outbound shipments came to US$46.9 billion last month, compared with $47 billion posted a year earlier, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Imports also moved down 0.3 percent on-year in March to $41.8 billion.
The country's trade surplus came to $5 billion in March, marking the 98th straight month that the country's exports have exceeded imports.

(3rd LD) S. Korea's exports down 0.2 pct in March amid COVID-19 fallout - 1

The average daily exports decreased at a greater pace of 6.4 percent on-year in March, the data also showed.

Outbound shipments rose by more than 20 percent in the first 10 days of March from a year earlier despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the customs data showed, but the growth narrowed to 10 percent for the March 1-20 period, apparently on virus jitters.

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained Asia's fourth-largest economy, as global trade and supply chains have been disrupted.

South Korea's exports had been expected to edge up 1.2 percent in March from a year earlier, a poll showed earlier.

Shipments of chips, one of the country's mainstay export items, moved down 2.7 percent on-year in March to $8.76 billion, after rebounding for the first time in 15 months in February. They accounted for nearly 19 percent of the monthly exports.

The global demand for chips from data centers and servers has increased, as more people are working from home amid the virus outbreak, but the growth was offset by less demand from smartphone makers and computer manufacturers, the data showed.

Shipments of petrochemical goods shed 9 percent on-year in March on a sharp decrease in global oil prices.

Exports of mobile devices, on the other hand, shot up 13.3 percent as a rising number of people refrained from going outside and opted to purchase goods or enjoy entertainment content through such devices.

Outbound shipments of cars edged up 3 percent to $3.81 billion due to increased sales of sport utility vehicles in the North American market, though the virus outbreak limited overall growth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a sharp increase in exports of consumer goods and medical products.

Exports of processed foodstuffs and hand sanitizers soared 54.1 percent and 81.4 percent, respectively, over the period. Shipments of medical test kits doubled on-year in March.

South Korea said the pandemic has not yet had a significant impact on its shipments to major trading partners, hinting that exports to the United States and the European Union gained ground on-year.

(3rd LD) S. Korea's exports down 0.2 pct in March amid COVID-19 fallout - 2

Exports to the world's top economy jumped 17.3 percent on-year in March on strong demand for cars, machines and chips, while those to the EU advanced 10 percent over the period.

On the other hand, exports to China, South Korea's top trading partner, slid 5.8 percent due to falling demand for petrochemical goods, along with other goods, after the operations of some factories were suspended in line with virus quarantine measures.

Shipments to Southeast Asian countries also moved down 1.9 percent on weak business sentiment and increased shipping costs.

The trade ministry forecast in January that annual exports would rebound 3 percent this year on the back of the recovery of chips, compared with last year's 10 percent drop.

The sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 infections around the globe over February and March, however, has made the goal less feasible.

The finance ministry said earlier the economy might contract in the first quarter of the year on weaker exports and private spending.

The South Korean economy grew 2 percent last year, the lowest in a decade, and had been expected to rebound to 2.3 percent growth this year.

The Bank of Korea, however, trimmed its outlook for the economy in 2020 to 2.1 percent from the previous 2.3 percent prediction, with a further cut in its growth estimate likely in the coming months.


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