Korea’s monthly exports hit $50B

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Korea’s monthly exports hit $50B

Korea’s monthly exports surpassed $50 billion for the first time, according to government data yesterday.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said exports grew 7.3 percent year-on-year in October, reaching $50.5 billion, largely owing to slight improvements in advanced economies like the United States and the European Union.

The export volume per day also rose 7.3 percent year-on-year, hitting $2.2 billion.

“It is the largest monthly export volume in the country’s history, proving that exports are demonstrating a gradual recovery,” said Nam Ki-man, director general of the trade policy bureau at the ministry.

Exports to Europe rebounded 16 percent after declining in August and September. Exports to the United States rose 23 percent.

New smartphone exports to advanced nations led the overall growth last month, the ministry said.

Mobile devices showed the largest growth of 33 percent in monthly exports. Growth in automobiles was 21 percent. Growth in semiconductors was 15 percent.

In July 2011, when the country posted $48.9 billion in exports, the previous record, exports of steel, ships and petrochemical products led the growth.

But exports of these products declined this year due to less demand in some emerging countries.

“Although it is difficult to have too much optimism on export conditions because of lingering external uncertainties, if advanced economies keep showing recovery, exports of a majority of products like IT devices and cars will continue growing in the near future,” Nam said.

The official also mentioned foreign exchange risks that might affect exports.

There has been concern about the rapidly strengthening won against the U.S. greenback. In the past three months, the won-dollar rate fell from 1,123 won ($1.06) to 1,060.7 won by the end of October.

The lowest level to maintain small exporters’ profitability is considered to be 1,050 won to the dollar.

Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said yesterday that local exporters’ reputations have improved enough to make their products successful even when prices rise with exchange rates.

The record export volume was also helped by growth of demand in emerging markets like Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey and South Africa.

Korea imported a total of $45.6 billion worth of products in October, leading to the 21st consecutive monthly trade surplus.

The latest figures should bolster expectations that Korea’s economic recovery will continue in the current quarter as external demand improves.

“This shows that Korea remains on track for a gradual recovery as it heads towards year-end, especially with orders picking up on the external front,” HSBC economist Ronald Man said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“But there is still scope for demand from China to rise further, which would provide a further boost to Korean shipments.”

In October, Korea’s exports to China barely inched up 5.5 percent year-on-year, owing to a 40 percent increase in automobile parts exports as demand increased due to expanding production in China. Korea’s exports to Japan fell 8.8 percent year-on-year, due to falls in petrochemical and steel products.

BY SONG SU-HYUN [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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