South Korea early exports edge higher amid weakening global demand

SEOUL – South Korea’s early trade data showed exports are only just still growing in September in a sign of fallout from lockdowns in China and a struggling global economy.

Daily shipments advanced 1.8 per cent on average in the first 20 days of the month compared with a year earlier, the Customs office said on Wednesday. Headline exports dropped 8.7 per cent, led by a 14 per cent decline in shipments to China. Semiconductor sales still increased by 3.4 per cent.

Exports have slowed in recent months as international demand weakens in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, Covid-19 outbreaks in China and rapid policy tightening by central banks. The Bank of Korea has been relying on resilient overseas sales to underpin its policy tightening as it seeks to rein in inflation.

Trade deficits are another concern as energy prices remain elevated and the currency weakens to hover around levels last seen during the global financial crisis.

The trade deficit amounted to US$4.1 billion  (S$5.8 billion) so far this month. While that is half the the record US$9.5 billion for the full month of August, Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho said risks to exports continue as chip demand cools and the economy slows in China, while volatility in energy prices remains elevated.

South Korean exports tend to reflect trends in international economic activity with the nation’s companies embedded widely across global supply chains, including semiconductor and auto makers.

Technology products, which account for a third of South Korean exports, were among the first to cool as global demand slackened. They fell 4.6 per cent last month, with semiconductors, smartphones and computers all declining. BLOOMBERG