South Korea's industrial output continued to grow on-month in January, but its growth rate slowed sharply from a month earlier amid worries that economic conditions might not be improving fast, a government report showed Friday.
According to the report by Statistics Korea, production in mining, manufacturing, gas and electricity industries expanded 0.1 percent last month from December. This marked the fourth straight month that the output has increased on a month-to-month basis.
The growth rate, however, decelerated from December's 2.4 percent gain, which was revised down from the previously announced 3.4 percent, the sharpest growth in 54 months.
Production in the service sector rose 0.9 percent on-month in January and increased 2 percent compared with a year earlier, the report showed.
The manufacturing sector output remained flat with production in semiconductors and electricity equipment shrinking compared with a month earlier.
The agency attributed the relatively sluggish data to fewer working days in January due to the Lunar New Year holiday.
The average facility operating ratio in the manufacturing sector still managed to climb to 78.2 percent in January from the revised 77.3 percent in December. This is the highest level since January 2013 when the ratio was 78.8 percent.
Consumption and corporate investment showed mixed results.
The report showed that retail sales increased 2.4 percent on-month in January, a turnaround from the previous month's 1.1 percent decline. From a year earlier, they expanded 5.7 percent, a marked improvement from December's 0.2 percent gain.
But corporate investment in facilities shrank 4.5 percent on-month in January due to a fall in business spending on machinery. Corporate investment also declined 1.7 percent from a year earlier, the report said.
Economists have been worrying that the Korean economy might slip into a long and protracted low growth phase.
Reflecting the sense of urgency, the government on Tuesday announced a package of policy directions along with detailed measures to be carried out over the next three years to raise the country's growth potential.
They include easing regulations aimed at boosting corporate investment, reforming debt-ridden public organizations and solving other problems hampering the country's economic growth.
The government expects the country's economy to grow 3.9 percent this year following last year's 2.8 percent gain as the rebounding global economy will present better market conditions for its exports. (Yonhap)