Trade surplus increases for 26th straight month

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Trade surplus increases for 26th straight month

Korea’s trade surplus rallied for the 26th consecutive month in March, largely due to the accelerating growth of exports.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, trade surplus last month amounted to $4.2 billion, as exports expanded 5.2 percent year-on-year to $49.8 billion and imports grew 3.6 percent to $45.6 billion.

While the year-on-year import growth rate slowed slightly compared to February (3.9 percent), exports saw their sharpest growth since December. Exports in January actually dipped 0.2 percent year-on-year but grew 1.5 percent in February.

The boost in exports last month was largely due to mobile devices such as smartphones, ships and automobiles. On the contrary, petrochemical, petroleum and computer exports all fell.

“Despite the advance of Chinese smartphone companies [Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola earlier this year] and the slowing growth of premium smartphones, exports of smartphones have largely increased thanks to the expanding LTE market in China and growing demand for medium-low smartphones in emerging markets,” said an official at the ministry.

The ministry projected the LTE smartphone market in China to increase 547 percent this year compared to last year.

In line with the ministry’s projection, mobile device exports surged 32.1 percent last month. Shipbuilding exports grew 18.7 percent as the shipping market is seeing significant improvement alongside the global economic recovery.

Automobile exports grew nearly 16 percent year-on-year thanks to the release of new vehicles including the LF Sonata. Computer chip exports also grew last month, posting an increase of 14 percent over the same month last year.

However, due to declining automobile sales in the United States, which is the biggest export market for auto parts, auto parts exports dipped 2.4 percent year-on-year. Petroleum exports also fell 3.5 percent year-on-year and petrochemical exports retreated 5 percent over last year.

Computer exports, largely affected by growing demand for tablet PCs, fell 5.5 percent year-on-year. Exports of computers to China and Southeast Asia grew, but exports to the United States tumbled nearly 35 percent.

LCD display exports saw a sharp drop of 10.4 percent. The ministry cited growing competition with overseas companies and the falling demand for LCD TVs. The price of a 32-inch TV LCD panel has fallen nearly 25 percent from a year ago to $76.

By region, exports to advanced economies, including the United States and Europe, continued to grow. Exports to the United States saw the steepest increase of 17 percent year-on-year to $3.4 billion, followed by Europe with 15.2 percent to $2.8 billion. Exports to Southeast Asia grew nearly 14 percent to $5.1 billion while exports to Korea’s largest export market, China, expanded 4.5 percent to $7.6 billion. On the other hand, exports to South America fell 7.6 percent.

BY lee ho-jeong []

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