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Korea’s outbound shipments inch down 1.5% in April 2018-05-01

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on May 1 that Korea’s exports in April inched down 1.5 percent year-on-year to USD 50.1 billion. Nevertheless, with the last month’s exports posting $51.6 billion, this was the first time for Korean exports to surpass $50 billion for two straight months.
Since exports excluding ships were up 10.4 percent to $48.3 billion, the slight contraction in overall outbound shipments is largely attributable to a base effect that resulted from a sharp increase in exports of ships including offshore platforms in the same month last year.

Average daily exports edged down 3.7 percent to $2.2 billion from a year earlier, falling for the first time in 17 months. Won-denominated exports decreased 7.2 percent to 53.5 trillion won due to contracted exports and relatively strong won.

Imports increased 14.5 percent to $43.5 billion, achieving growth for the 18th straight month for the first time in 74 months since February 2012. Trade surplus stood at $6.6 billion. This allowed Korea to remain as a net exporter for 75 consecutive months.

Cumulative exports from January to April 2018 posted a record high of $195.5 billion, up 6.9 percent from the same period last year.

Deputy Minister of Trade and Investment Kim Young-sam stated that although outbound shipments in April saw a slight year-on-year decrease due to the base effect, exports excluding ships showed a continuing upward trend. He added that the Ministry will work towards improving the country’s export competitiveness by promoting diversification of export markets and encouraging development of higher value-added export items.

A breakdown of exports shows that seven out of Korea’s 13 major export items saw growth. They are semiconductors, computers and peripheral devices, petrochemicals, petroleum products, general machinery, auto parts, and textiles. Exports of the first five categories grew at double-digit rates.

Exports of semiconductors soared 37.0 percent year-on-year to the second highest record of $9.8 billion, posting the 19th consecutive growth. This increase is attributable to strong demand for memory and system semiconductors.

Computers and peripheral devices advanced 23.5 percent to $833 million, achieving an increase for 13 straight months. This was led by higher demand for solid-state devices used in corporate data centers and personal computers. More personal computers are now installed with SSDs rather than hard disk drives (HDDs).

General machinery jumped 13.1 percent to a record $4.8 billion on the back of increased investment in facilities and infrastructure in some advanced economies.

Petrochemicals climbed 11.7 percent to $4.1 billion, exceeding $4 billion for five consecutive months. Strong performance of the industry and higher oil prices were largely responsible for this growth.

Petroleum products leaped 53.6 percent to $3.8 billion, led by light oil and jet fuel. This is largely attributable to rising oil prices and routine maintenance.

Automobile parts increased 6.6 percent to $2.0 billion, returning to growth for the first time in 14 months. Increased exports to emerging markets such as the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Middle East primarily contributed to this increase.

Textiles went up 6.0 percent to $1.3 billion due to rising prices of raw materials and growing demand for clothing in advanced countries.

Meanwhile, exports of steel, automobiles, displays, home appliances, wireless communication devices, and ships saw decreases.

Among outbound shipments of high-value, high-tech products that the Ministry separately keeps track of, multi-chip packages (MCPs) and SSDs achieved double-digit growths. Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), however, slightly declined.

MCPs went up 46.0 percent to $2.0 billion, posting double-digit growth for the 19th consecutive month. A wider usage and greater storage capacity of semiconductors were largely responsible for this expansion.

SSDs increased 12.2 percent to $453 million, expanding at double-digit rates for 23 straight months, thanks to higher demand for corporate servers and personal computers.

OLEDs inched down 0.4 percent to $657 million, mostly attributable to sluggish sales of smartphones.

By region, exports to China, ASEAN, Japan, the Middle East, India, and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) expanded. In particular, those to China (up 23.0 percent to $13.0 billion), ASEAN (up 2.1 percent to $8.5 billion), and India (up 4.5 percent to $1.3 billion) all achieved record-highs for April.

Outbound shipments to four other regions, on the other hand, experienced contraction: the U.S. (down 1.8 percent to $5.9 billion), the EU (down 21.2 percent to $5.1 billion), Vietnam (down 17.6 percent to $3.7 billion), and Central and South America (down 2.5 percent to $2.2 billion).
For imports, higher oil prices led to more shipping of crude oil to Korea. Expanded investment in domestic production facilities increased imports of semiconductor manufacturing equipments, while greater local demand for electricity raised those of liquefied natural gas.

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