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Korea’s Early Exports Rise on More Work Days, Growing Demand

Sam Kim
·2 mins read

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South Korea’s early trade data showed exports rebounding in September, buoyed by more work days and growing demand for cars and semiconductors from economies gradually reopening after coronavirus-triggered lockdowns.

Exports rose 3.6% in the first 20 days of September from a year earlier, the first rise in early trade data since March, according to customs office data released Monday. Average daily shipments offered a less optimistic picture, falling by 9.8% as the period had two more working days compared with last year.

“Overall it’s looking better gradually,” said Jeong Won-il, an economist at Yuanta Securities. “With surprises in exports to China and improving chip demand from the U.S., we certainly won’t see the kind of falls we saw in the second quarter any longer.”

South Korea’s exports serve as a barometer of global economy’s health, and the latest report shows global trade is slowly gathering momentum as countries learn to live with the virus and seek to normalize activity. Still, tightening U.S. sanctions against major Chinese companies loom as a threat to South Korea’s chip exports.

The national Chuseok holiday fell in the first half of September in 2019 as opposed to Sept. 30-Oct. 2 for this year, and likely boosted headline export figures this month. South Korea’s monthly exports fell by around a quarter in April and May, but the slump has been easing since then.

Exports to China, South Korea’s biggest overseas market, rose 8.7% during September 1-20 while semiconductor shipments increased 25%.

Exports to the U.S. rose 16% in the period and shipments to the European Union were up 9.6%, while those to Japan dropped 19%.

Overseas shipments of cars rose 39%, while oil products plunged 46%. Sales of wireless communications devices fell 9.1%.

South Korea’s overall imports declined 6.8% in the first 20 days of the month.

(Updates to add details)

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