SEOUL- South Korean exports fell for a sixth straight month in August, mainly due to fewer working days, but global demand is starting to pick up thanks to easing lockdown measures in key trading partners.
Outbound shipments tumbled 9.9 percent in August from a year earlier, government data showed, faster than July’s 7.1 percent fall but slower than an 11.5 percent decline tipped in a Reuters survey.
Excluding the calendar effect, per-day exports slid 3.8 percent, the smallest decline in seven months.
South Korea is the first major exporting economy to report monthly trade data, providing an early guide to the health of global shipments.
“Exports will continue to recover during the second half and turn positive next year,” said Chun Kyu-yeon, economist at Hana Financial Investment.
“Global demand are clearly showing recovery along with economic resumptions,” she added.
Per-day exports to China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner, rose 3.6 percent year-on-year, while those to the United States and the European Union also jumped 6.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.
Exports to China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner, fell 3.0 percent from a year earlier, but rose 3.6 percent on a per working day basis. Per-day exports to the United States and the European Union also jumped 6.4 percent and 4.1 percent, respectively.
Overseas sales of semiconductors, the nation’s top exporting item, climbed 2.8 percent, while those of computers and home appliances surged 106.6 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively.
Imports dropped 16.3 percent, sharper than the previous month’s 11.6 percent and the forecast 15.2 percent fall, resulting in a $4.12 billion trade surplus.
Tuesday’s data comes as the country faces a second wave of coronavirus infections, recording a 19th straight day of triple-digit infections despite tighter social-distancing rules.
Many corporations, including tech giants Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and SK Hynix, have expanded or reinstated work-from-home policies.
That may dampen the recovery momentum in the economy that already slipped into recession in the second quarter, despite some 277 trillion won ($233.40 billion) of stimulus.
The central bank last week sharply downgraded its economic projection, expecting gross domestic product to shrink 1.3 percent this year – the biggest fall in more than two decades.
“If the social distancing rules are raised to the (toughest) phase 3, leading to factory suspension or disruption in output, that could probably affect exports,” Chun said.