Holiday, won hurt February exports
Overseas shipments dropped 8.6 percent in February from a year earlier, after a revised 10.9 percent gain in January, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said yesterday. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 15 economists was for a 9.2 percent decline.
A currency that’s gained about 23 percent against the yen over the past six months has sapped the competitiveness of South Korea’s exporters and complicated policy makers’ efforts to revitalize Asia’s fourth-biggest economy. President Park Geun-hye took office this week pledging to boost expansion in a nation emerging from its slowest growth since 2009 amid record household debt and a widening income gap.
“We shouldn’t read too much into the data as the Lunar New Year holiday fell in February this year but in January last year,” said Park Sang-hyun, chief economist at Hi Investment and Securities, prior to the report. “On average, exports are growing, though at a very slow pace.”
The won has strengthened the most against the yen among 16 major currencies in the past six months. Many Korean exporters of goods ranging from cars to electronics compete with Japanese rivals in global markets.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pushed for a weakening of the yen and nominated Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda this week to lead the nation’s central bank, raising the likelihood of further monetary stimulus this year.
Imports fell 10.7 percent in February from a year earlier, the ministry said today. That compared with the median estimate for a drop of 9.1 percent in a survey of 12 analysts and a 3.9 percent gain in January.
The trade surplus was $2.1 billion after a revised $476 million excess in January.