ASEAN-led demand buoys surplus

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ASEAN-led demand buoys surplus

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Exports grew 1.2 percent on-year last month to snap a three-month slide and bump the trade surplus up to $3.8 million, more than double last year’s $1.44 billion, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said yesterday.

The trade balance has been in the black for nine months now. It tallied $3.15 million in September.

Exports grew to $47.2 billion and imports expanded 1.5 percent on-year to $43.4 billion.

“Although our key trade partners have seen delays in terms of their economic recovery .?.?. Korean exports have increased slightly thanks to growing shipments to Southeast Asian countries and China,” said Han Jin-hyun, director of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s international trade and investment division.

Overall exports were boosted by a 21.1 percent jump in shipments to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, along with a 5.7 percent rise in shipments to China. Those to the U.S. and to Central and South America dropped by 3.5 percent and 8.2 percent, respectively, last month. Exports by refineries and electronics makers were among those leading the charge.

Shipments of petroleum and petrochemical products surged by 27.7 percent and 6.9 percent. IT products also contributed, with a 18.6 percent growth in mobile communications devices, including smartphones, along with a 6.7 percent rise in semiconductors and a 1.6 percent climb in LCD displays.

However, key export industries including ships, steel and autos fell by 29.7 percent, 10.7 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.

The value of imports grew on more expensive raw material prices, with crude oil in particular moving up to $116 per barrel on average last month from $109.80 a year ago.

Han said trade should continue to improve in the fourth quarter but he conceded that opinion is mixed for the first three months of 2013.

“As exports were down in Q4 of 2011, overall performance in the same quarter this year will show significant improvement due to the base effect,” he said.

But there have been mixed forecasts for the first quarter of next year, as some say economic conditions in the European Union may stay the same, while others say the U.S. economy will get better next year boosted by recent quantitative easing measures.

More detailed projections for the fourth quarter and the next will be announced by early December after the ministry discusses the matter with experts, he added.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

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