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S. Korea's trade surplus narrows sharply in Jan.

   South Korea's trade surplus narrowed sharply in January from the previous month as soaring crude and commodity costs overshadowed record exports, a government report showed Tuesday.

   The country's surplus reached $2.96 billion last month, compared with $4.08 billion in December, with exports surging 46 percent to $44.89 billion and imports gaining 32.9 percent to

$41.93 billion, according to the report by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

   The monthly export volume was the largest ever, surpassing the

$44.14 billion tallied in the last month of 2010. The surplus also marked the 12th month in a row that South Korea posted a favorable trade balance.

   According to the report, outbound shipments were fueled by strong overseas demand for locally made cars and ships, with exports to most countries posting solid gains compared to the year before.

   Exports to the U.S. jumped 35.6 percent on-year, with shipments to European Union and Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries expanding 127.8 percent and 65.2 percent, respectively.

Exports to China, South Korea's largest trading partner, moved up

24.2 percent with exports to Japan gaining 60.9 percent annually.

   Imports, which reduced the overall trade surplus, rose as international crude and commodities prices surged during the month.

   The country's import of crude oil and natural gas jumped 30.6 percent and 55.9 percent each in January from a year earlier, with those of coal going up 59.9 percent.

   South Korean companies, in addition, bought more intermediate goods such as semiconductor manufacturing machines with numbers for consumer goods posting solid gains.

   Intermediate capital goods imports rose 25.6 percent on-year, with consumer imports soaring 68.0 percent on the strength of the country's economic recovery.

   For February, the ministry expected the Lunar New Year holiday will affect local manufacturing sector output and exports, although trade conditions should not be seriously hurt by people taking time off from work.

(Yonhap News)

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