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Korea posts $5.82b trade surplus in April

South Korea’s trade surplus surged to $5.8 billion in April, up sharply from $2.8 billion the previous month on brisk exports of petroleum products and ships, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Sunday.

Exports rose 27 percent on-year to $49.77 billion last month, with imports rising 24 percent to $43.95 billion, according to the ministry.

“The record-high export numbers were the result of local companies doing well in key areas such as petroleum products, ships and autos,” said An Byung-hwa, head of the ministry’s export-import division.

April marks the 15th straight month that the country has recorded a surplus.

The ministry expected that the trend would continue despite rising concerns over gains in the won.

“Even with the high international fuel prices, the trade surplus will continue into May as the country has been seeing continuous growth in exports,” the ministry said.

Gains in the currency have been helping to curb inflation that exceeded the central bank’s 4 percent target ceiling in each of the first three months of the year.

Korea’s won has advanced to its highest levels since 2008, reaching 1,070.5 won per dollar on Friday, as the nation’s economic recovery accelerated.

Market watchers are projecting that the strong won is likely to dampen the export-dependent country’s growth in the future.

Outbound shipments of petroleum products and ships surged 80 percent and 56 percent on-year, respectively.

Ministry officials said strong petroleum product exports were possible due to higher crude prices on expectations of global growth. Ship exports grew largely as domestic yards handed over high value-added vessels to foreign shipping lines.

Cars, mobile telecommunications devices and steel exports also performed well.

The rise in imports, meanwhile, resulted from higher international prices of raw materials such as crude oil, coal and gas. Imports of crude jumped 50.7 percent on-year with inbound shipments of coal and gas rising 29.6 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.

Shipments to Japan, still recovering from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, soared by 70 percent from the previous year. Elsewhere, on-year growth was 44 percent for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and 23 percent for the U.S.

Exports to China, Korea’s largest overseas market, moved up 9 percent, while shipments to the European Union gained 8 percent.

Consumer product imports rose by more than 35 percent, while numbers for capital goods, such as semiconductor manufacturing equipment, dropped 23.5 percent.

For the first four months of this year, the ministry said Korea posted a trade surplus of just under $14 billion with exports surging 29 percent to $181 billion and imports rising 25 percent to $167 billion.

By Koh Young-aah (youngaah@heraldcorp.com)
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