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Exports up 3.9% during first 20 days of Aug.; trade deficit widens


South Korea's exports rose 3.9 percent on-year in the first 20 days of August on robust demand for petroleum products and autos, but the country saw its trade deficit widen on soaring fuel costs, data showed Monday.

The country's outbound shipments stood at $33.4 billion in the Aug. 1-20 period, compared with $32.2 billion a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service.

Imports jumped 22.1 percent on-year to $43.6 billion during the cited period, resulting in a trade deficit of $10.2 billion. The trade deficit was larger than a shortfall of $3.6 billion the previous year.

If the current trend continues, South Korea is expected to post a trade deficit for the fifth straight month in August due to high energy costs.

Exports, which account for half of the economy, rose 9.4 percent on-year in July, marking the 21st consecutive month of growth. But the country suffered a trade deficit for the fourth straight month as high oil and commodity prices pushed up import bills.

Imports of crude oil jumped 54.1 percent during the first 20 days of August, and those of coal soared 143.4 percent. South Korea relies on imports for most of its energy needs.

By sector, exports of petroleum products jumped 109.3 percent on-year in the cited period and shipments of automobiles rose 22 percent despite a shortage of auto chips. Autos accounted for some 7 percent of South Korea's exports.

But exports of semiconductors, a key item, declined 7.5 percent on-year amid a fall in chip prices. If shipments of chips fall for the whole of August, it will be the first on-year decline since June 2020. Semiconductors accounted for about 20 percent of South Korea's exports.

By country, exports to China, South Korea's largest trading partner, fell 11.2 percent, while those to the United States inched up 0.8 percent.

South Korea logged a trade deficit of $667 million with China during the first 20 days of August. If the current trend goes on, the country is expected to post a trade deficit with China for the fourth straight month in August.

In its monthly economic assessment report, the finance ministry voiced concerns about the economic slowdown, saying that export growth could be strained by the global economic downturn.

In June, the government forecast Asia's fourth-largest economy to grow 2.6 percent this year and inflation to spike 4.7 percent. (Yonhap)