(2nd LD) Sept. current account turns to surplus, sharply drops on-year amid high import, travel bills
(ATTN: ADDS BOK's forecast in paras 10-12)
SEOUL, Nov. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korea posted a current account surplus in September, swinging from the previous month's shortfall, but it was much smaller than a year earlier as import bills remained high and outbound travel grew due to eased pandemic-related curbs, central bank data showed Tuesday.
The country's current account surplus came to US$1.61 billion in September, compared with a deficit of a revised $3.05 billion a month earlier, which marked the first shortfall since April, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).
September's surplus, however was much smaller than a year earlier when the corresponding figure stood at $10.51 billion.
During the January-September period, the country logged a cumulative current account surplus of $24.14 billion, sharply down from a surplus of $67.41 billion tallied a year earlier, the data showed.
South Korea's economy is facing growing uncertainty at home and abroad stemming from high inflation, rising import prices for raw materials, accelerating monetary tightening in major countries and the growing worries over a global economic recession.
Adding to the woes are the prolonged strict antivirus restrictions and lockdowns in China that have been undercutting demand for goods in the largest market for South Korea's exporters.
South Korea exported $57.09 billion worth of exports in September, down 0.7 percent from a year earlier, though it slightly rose from the previous month's $57.28 billion. Shipments to China, in particular, shrank 6.5 percent on-year to $13.37 billion in September, the data showed.
Imports jumped 18 percent on-year to $56.59 billion in September. The amount, however, dwindled from the previous month's $61.73 billion.
The on-year rise in imports came mostly from higher energy and raw material prices driven up by the ongoing war in Ukraine and more demand from the global economic reopening after the pandemic. The BOK said that crude oil imports surged 57.4 percent on-year in September.
The BOK said that the on-year decline in current account surplus was due to high-rise prices of crude oil and other energy products that the country mostly imports, but excluding such energy items, the country is estimated to have posted a monthly average surplus of $12.2 billion during the third quarter.
The central bank noted that uncertainty remains high in predicting future current account figures that will be determined by China's possible easing of pandemic lockdowns and the pace of global economic growth down the road.
"It is also hard to predict whether and how much the country will post a surplus in October due to lack of raw data available at this time," Hwang Sang-pil, head of the BOK's economic statistics bureau, said.
The goods balance that tracks exports and imports logged a surplus of $490 million in September, a turnaround from the previous month's deficit of $4.45 billion. However, it was much smaller than the previous year's surplus of $9.55 billion.
The service account, which includes outlays by South Koreans on overseas trips and transport earnings, remained in the red as outbound travel increased following eased pandemic curbs. The deficit in the service account came to $340 million in September, compared with a deficit of $770 million the previous month.
The primary income account, which tracks wages of foreign workers and dividend payments overseas, logged a surplus of $1.84 billion in September, down from the previous month's surplus of $2.24 billion, according to the data.
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