Strong January exports fuel $874 million trade surplus

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Strong January exports fuel $874 million trade surplus

Korea’s trade balance made a positive turnaround from a year earlier last month as the growth of exports outpaced that of imports, the government said yesterday.

Exports increased 11.8 percent year-on-year in January to $46.08 billion, according to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy. Imports grew 3.9 percent to $45.21 billion, leaving a $874 million trade surplus. In January 2012, there was a $2.3 billion deficit.

“Though total exports increased 11.8 percent from a year earlier, this was largely due to an increase in the number of working days [by two] and a base effect stemming from a 7.3 percent year-on-year drop [in January 2012],” it said in a press release. The ministry noted the average growth of daily exports on working days slowed from 7.5 percent in December to 2.5 percent last month.

Last month’s trade surplus also is the smallest since February 2012, it said.

Shipments to the United States, China and Southeast Asian countries posted double-digit increases from a year earlier, but those to Europe continued to fall due to the prolonged effects of the financial crisis there, according to the ministry.

Exports to the United States jumped 21.2 percent year-on-year last month, with shipments to the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations surging 17 percent and to China 16.6 percent. Shipments to European Union countries slipped 3.2 percent from the same period last year.

Imports of crude oil edged down 3.2 percent from a year earlier due mainly to a drop in prices from an average of $114.50 per barrel in January 2012 to $111.90 last month, the ministry said.

Imports of natural gas, on the other hand, shot up 37.7 percent year-on-year as volume grew from 3.57 million tons last year to 4.53 million tons in January and average price rising from $731.30 to $791.80 per ton.

The ministry said continued appreciation of the won against the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen was beginning to hurt the competitiveness of exporters. A strong currency means Korean products sold overseas become more expensive.

“Considering that the growth of the average of daily exports is slowing down, it appears the appreciation of the Korean won that has continued since late last year is beginning to negatively affect the country’s exports,” it said.

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