Industrial output still rises

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Industrial output still rises

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The nation’s industrial output increased in December from a month earlier.

According to a report by Statistics Korea Friday, December’s total industrial output increased 0.9 percent from November, the third consecutive month of growth, thanks to strong demand for cars and chips. But total industrial output for last year only increased 1.1 percent, the worst rate since the country started collecting data in 2000.

“The 1.1 percent growth reflects that the country has been growing very slowly economically,” said Lee Joon-hyup, a researcher at the Hyundai Research Institute. “The increase in December was bigger than expected after strikes in the car industry ended, but since this was only a temporary impact, the economy is in fact still sluggish.”

The report said output for mining and the manufacturing industry grew by 3 percent from November, the largest growth since September 2009, when it marked minus 0.8 percent growth, mainly due to improvements in autos (6.3 percent) and semiconductors (4.4 percent). The index for the auto industry slumped from August to October as there were some partial strikes in major companies including the nation’s second-largest automaker Kia Motors.

The services sector didn’t change much. Wholesale and retail industries (1.7 percent) and transportation (2.3 percent) increased from a month earlier, but lodging and insurance industries dropped by 4.1 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. The construction industry, where many companies are having a tough time due to the moribund real estate market, also saw a 0.8 percent output drop in the month.

Retail sales were able to snap out of a September and October slump and increased by an average of 2 percent for the second consecutive month, the first two since September and October 2009. Total output of semidurable goods including apparel increased by 5.9 percent while the index for durable goods including communication devices and computers increased by 2.2 percent.

Reflecting improvements in many major industrial indexes, the composite index of coincident indicators, which comprises four cyclical economic data sets including the phase of the business cycle the economy is currently experiencing, was increased by 0.3 percent while the index of leading economic indicators, which predicts the upcoming economy, was increased by 0.2 percent.

“The overall economy wasn’t good last year,” said Statistics Korea in a statement. “Many hardships including the Sewol ferry tragedy in April and strikes in the automobile industry impacted the economy badly.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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