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September exports decrease 11.7% to $44.7 billion 2019-10-01

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on October 1 that Korean exports in September decreased 11.7 percent year-on-year to USD 44.7 billion. Imports fell 5.6 percent to $38.7 billion and the trade balance recorded a surplus of $6.0 billion, remaining positive for 92 consecutive months.
The fall in exports was affected by unfavorable external conditions such as the U.S.-China trade conflict and Japan’s stricter export restrictions against Korea. Another factor that contributed to the decline was a base effect caused by all-time monthly high exports of semiconductors recorded in September 2018 ($12.4 billion). Decreasing prices of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) semiconductors also dragged down exports. Meanwhile, the impact of Japan’s measure on Korean exports so far seems to be limited.

Daily average exports last month were $2.2 billion, the highest since January. The trade surplus of $6.0 billion was also the highest this year. Moreover, exports, in volume terms, grew 3.1 percent.

By item, exports of semiconductors, petrochemicals, and petroleum products decreased while those of automobiles, ships, and bio-health products increased.

Chip exports fell 31.5 percent to $8.5 billion despite rising NAND prices. This was largely attributable to declining DRAM prices and uncertainty in the industry stemming from issues such as the U.S.-China trade dispute.

Shipments of petrochemicals decreased 17.6 percent to $3.4 billion. The export volume increased due to the operation of newly established facilities, but oil prices continued to slide.

Exports of petroleum products dropped 18.8 percent to $3.5 billion, mainly because of falling oil prices, the growing number of refineries in Asia, and more regular maintenance compared to a year earlier.

Automobile exports, on the other hand, grew 4.0 percent to $3.1 billion on the back of growing demand for eco-friendly cars in markets such as the EU.

Ship exports jumped 30.9 percent to $1.8 billion thanks to a greater number of deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers and tankers.

Shipments of bio-health products rose 25.2 percent to $768 million. Newly launched medicines and Botox products were shipped to more diverse destinations, and demand for medical devices such as dental implants and dental braces was robust in China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

By region, exports to China and the U.S. contracted while those to the EU and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) expanded.

Exports to China slowed down 21.8 percent to $11.4 billion mainly because of decreased sales of semiconductors, general machinery, displays, and petroleum products.

The value of Korean products shipped to the U.S. amounted to $5.7 billion, down 2.2 percent. Items that saw a decrease in exports were general machinery, semiconductors, home appliances, and wireless communication devices.

In contrast, shipments to the CIS improved 41.3 percent to 1.2 billion, owing to increased exports of general machinery, home appliances, computers, and ships.

Exports to the EU saw a growth of 10.6 percent to $4.4 billion, following greater sales of ships, petroleum products, and wireless communication devices.

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