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Exports decline in record-breaking losing streak

Korea’s exports remained persistently low in March, falling for the 15th consecutive month to post a record-breaking losing streak, government data showed Friday.

The 8.2 percent decline, however, marked the first single-digit decrease in four months. 

A container port in Busan (Yonhap)
A container port in Busan (Yonhap)

Total exports stood at $42.98 billion this month, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Since November, exports have been seeing a double-digit fall due to sluggish economic conditions at home and abroad.

Despite the slowdown in the rate of decline -- seen to be caused mainly by the latest upturn in crude oil prices -- experts failed to detect signs of a proper recovery.

“It is true that the declining pace has slowed, but given the sluggish economic growth rates at major global economies such as the United States and China, it is hard to believe exports will turn positive this year,” said Lee Geun-tae, a senior researcher at the LG Economic Research Institute.

He added that the institute was poised to cut its growth forecast for the Korean economy from its previous 2.5 percent. Asia’s fourth-largest economy depends heavily on exports, which make up nearly two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Lee warned the government should not resort to short-term stimulus measures to artificially boost growth. “Such stop-gap measures would exacerbate side effects such as household debt and fiscal deficit,” he said.

By sector, outbound shipments of steel products spiked 14.7 percent on-year last month, marking a turnaround from negative growth the month before, with shipments of mobile communication devices, such as smartphones, jumping 19.9 percent on-year.

Shipments of semiconductors contracted 1.5 percent on-year in March, but the decline rate was lower than February’s 12.6 percent plunge.

By country, shipments to European Union countries rose 12.7 percent on-year. Those to Vietnam and India increased 13.5 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively.

Exports to China dwindled for the ninth consecutive month, plunging 12.2 percent on-year in March, but this was lower than the 21.5 percent decline in January.

Separately, the Bank of Korea said Korea’s current account surplus widened from a year earlier in February on narrowing service account deficits and imports slipping faster than exports.

The current account surplus came to $7.51 billion in February, compared to a revised $6.82 billion surplus in the previous month, BOK data showed.

Compared to a year earlier, the February reading marks a whopping 23.5 percent spike. February also marks the 48th consecutive month of surplus.

By Kim Yoon-mi and news reports (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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