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South Korea Feb exports down for 14th month on depressed global demand
[SEOUL] South Korean exports in February fell for a 14th straight month, and although the decline was not as bad as in the previous month the overall downturn in overseas sales suggested depressed global demand continues to hobble the domestic economy.
South Korea is the first major economy to report monthly trade figures, and Tuesday's release from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy did little to instil confidence in a global economy facing multiple challenges including a slowdown in China, sustained deflationary pressures and a slide in commodity prices.
Shipments from the world's sixth-largest exporter and Asia's fourth-largest economy fell 12.2 per cent from a year earlier to US$36.42 billion in February, while imports slumped 14.6 per cent to US$29.02 billion. This produced a US$7.39 billion trade surplus.
The figures were marginally better than January, when exports and imports plummeted 18.8 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, but that likely reflected one extra working day last month compared to the prior year.
Pressure has been rising for the Bank of Korea to cut rates further from the current record low 1.50 per cent to spur activity inside the country as exports continued to take a toll on the economy, which slowed sharply in the fourth quarter from the third.
"The decline in exports eased slightly in February as shipments of key products except ships improved amid negative conditions like low oil prices, falling product prices and sluggish global growth," the trade ministry in a statement.
February's trade performance topped expectations from a Reuters poll for a 15.5 per cent drop in exports and a 15.4 per cent decline in imports.
Exports of computers, mobile handsets and machineries had seen gains in February, the statement said, while shipments to the US saw a rebound.
Those to the European Union sustained their rising trend, the ministry added, without elaborating. The government will release details on destinations later in the day.