South Korea’s exports post early double-digit gains


SEOUL: South Korea’s exports are set to climb by double digits again in June as the global economy shakes off the effects of the pandemic, though a slower pace from recent months suggests the days of outsize gains may have passed.

Exports rose 29.5% in the first 20 days of the month from a year earlier, the customs office reported yesterday.

Adjusted for calendar effects, average daily shipments increased 33.7% in the period, which had half a business day less compared with last year.

As vaccinations speed up and lockdowns ease across the world, Korea has seen overseas demand grow beyond memory chips to cars, smartphones and other consumer goods.

The gains were less than the 45.6% jump for the full month of May, largely due to a less favourable base effect while exports can speed up during the remaining days of a month.

Korea’s trade data offer a timely assessment on the health of global commerce as its manufacturers are positioned widely across supply chains. Sales to the US, Europe and Japan posted hefty gains, but a slower pace of rise in China suggests export gains to other economies may also moderate as recoveries there enter a more mature post-pandemic phase.

Consumers in major economies may also pivot spending to services from goods as virus restrictions ease. Still, most economists agree that the export outlook for Korea remains positive.

“It’s about time the exports momentum started to weaken on base effects,” said Yoon Yeo-sam, an analyst at Meritz Securities in Seoul. But they’ll largely remain favourable enough so as not to disrupt the trajectory of economic growth while allowing the Bank of Korea (BoK) to keep shifting its focus to financial stability.”

June’s early trade data show exports remain the driver of Korea’s recovery, and is likely to bolster views that the BoK is gearing up for an earlier rate hike than most developed peers.

In a report last week, the BoK said US fiscal stimulus, rising global ship sales, and pent-up demand from overseas consumers are likely to buoy exports for the rest of the year.

“Though the pace is moderating from April and May’s outsize gains as base effects from last year’s lockdowns fade, underlying momentum remains positive. With semiconductor manufacturers leading the charge, the export sector is poised to remain a key driver behind the rebound in South Korean growth this year – and likely into next.” said Bloomberg economist Justin Jimenez.

Exports to China, South Korea’s largest overseas market, rose 7.9% between June 1-20, compared with a year earlier. Overall semiconductor shipments increased 28.5%.

Exports to the US rose 41.3%, while shipments to the European Union jumped 48.8% and those to Japan increased 33%. Shipments of cars rose 62.2%, while oil products increased 58.6%. Sales of wireless communications devices rose 15.8%. Ship exports fell 27.7%.

South Korea’s overall imports rose 29.1% in the first 20 days of June. — Bloomberg

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