Exports increase for 12th month
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Wednesday, Korea’s exports rose in October for a 12th straight month, jumping 7.1 percent from the same time last year to $44.9 billion.
Although this was the first time that export growth was in single digits after nine straight months, this was largely due to the extended Chuseok holiday in early October, when some companies took off on vacation for as long as 10 days.
“We see the favorable export growth as meaningful considering that the number of work days in October was much fewer compared to a year ago,” said Paik Un-gyu, minister of trade, industry and energy. “If there aren’t any major changes, we expect trade to reach $1 trillion by mid-December, which would be a first in three years.”
Imports last month saw a 7.4 percent increase to $37.7 billion, which contributed to the $7.3 billion trade surplus that has continued for 69 consecutive months.
According to the ministry, seven out of the 13 top export goods, including semiconductors, ships, steel and petrochemicals, all saw a year-on-year increase. Semiconductor exports surged nearly 70 percent from a year ago to $9.48 billion.
On the other hand, automobiles saw exports decline 12.8 percent to $28.9 billion due to the shortened work month. By region, exports to China, Southeast Asia and Europe grew.
Exports to China continued their double-digit growth for a third straight month to $12.6 billion, while exports to Asean markets enjoyed double-digit growth for a 12th consecutive month, reaching $73.7 billion.
Another positive sign was the steady increase of inflation. Although consumer prices grew at the slowest pace since December last year, they still went up by 1.8 percent.
Statistics Korea on Wednesday said one of the noticeable changes last month was the easing of consumer prices for fresh produce and livestock, which had been affecting households in the past couple of months.
As vegetable prices dropped 9.7 percent, they helped lower consumer price growth by 0.18 percentage points. It was the sharpest drop since October 2014, when vegetable prices fell 12.1 percent. Livestock prices rose 1.9 percent, the slowest since July 2015 when they grew 1.4 percent.
But a continuing rise in inflation also indicates a favorable outlook for the economy. The two favorable indicators were released at a time when expectations for the Korean economy have been improving rapidly.
Last month, the International Monetary Fund and Bank of Korea raised their growth forecast for this year to 3 percent. If this turns out to be correct, it will be the first time in three years.
Confidence of 3 percent growth was further solidified when GDP growth in the third quarter grew at its fastest pace in seven years.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [email@example.com]
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