S. Korea’s March exports to post fastest growth in 29 months

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    SEOUL- South Korea’s exports likely grew at their sharpest pace in 29 months in March, a Reuters poll showed on Monday, with semiconductors and car sales leading the expansion as global demand improved.

    Outbound shipments this month were seen expanding 16.2 percent from a year earlier, the median forecast in a poll of 15 economists showed, accelerating from February’s 9.5 percent increase and extending the growth to a fifth straight month.

    “Exports are seen continuing double-digit growth due to favorable base effects, increased demand from China and other major economies, and rising prices of value-added items,” Kiwoom Securities economist Kim Yu-mi said.

    Exports slid 1.8 percent year-on-year in March 2020 despite surging chip demand, as the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown measures ravaged supply chains.

    Meanwhile, preliminary data showed exports during March 1-20 jumped 12.5 percent, with semiconductors and cars sales soaring 13.6 percent and 13.0 percent, respectively.

    Going forward, most economists see exports expanding further.

    “Exports, which have continued growth thanks to China’s economic expansion and global economic recovery, are expected to grow further during the second quarter supported by the $1.9 trillion stimulus package from the United States,” said Oh Jae-young, an economist at KB Securities.

    Imports are expected to rise 17.5 percent, making it the sharpest growth since Oct. 2018, on higher oil and commodity prices.

    Meanwhile, 12 economists predicted February industrial output would have shrank by a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent month-on-month, after declining 1.6 percent in January.

    Economists also estimated consumer prices this month would rise a median 1.4 percent year-on-year, accelerating from February’s 1.1 percent rise.

    The Bank of Korea sees this year’s growth exceeding earlier projections of 3 percent, while the International Monetary Fund upgraded 2021 its growth forecast to 3.6 percent last week.