- Korea's March exports edge down 0.2 percent to $46.9 billion amid COVID-19 outbreak 2020-04-01
The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on April 1 that Korea’s exports in March decreased 0.2 percent from a year earlier to USD 46.9 billion. Imports slipped 0.3 percent to $41.9 billion.
The trade balance stood at $5.0 billion, remaining positive for 98 straight months. The average daily exports recorded $2.0 billion and saw a year-on-year decrease but the gap improved to a single-digit decrease.
Despite initial concerns of sharp contraction following the spread of the coronavirus, exports in March remained close to those of the previous year ($100 million difference). However, since the virus crisis in regions other than China, especially the U.S. and the EU, escalated, the impacts could be more apparent after April.
While the export value went down 11.7 percent, the export volume in March increased 13.1 percent and recorded the highest increase in 17 months since October 2018.
Among Korea’s 20 major export items, outbound shipments of nine items saw growth: automobiles, auto parts, wireless communication devices, computers, biohealth products, plastic products, agricultural products and fisheries, cosmetics, and fine chemicals. Those of the remaining 11 items saw decreases. They are semiconductors, general machinery, petrochemicals, petroleum products, steels, ships, displays, textiles, secondary batteries, home appliances, and robots.
Automobile exports gained 3.0 percent to $3.8 billion. Despite weak global demand due to the coronavirus, favorable SUV exports to North America and increased green car exports to the EU led to the positive growth in auto exports after three months of decline.
Computers soared 82.3 percent to $1.2 billion and recorded six consecutive months of increase. In addition to the increased number of people working from home, greater demand in global data centers and servers as well as SSDs led to the growth.
Biohealth products advanced 23.7 percent to $990 million in spite of fiercer price competition. Introduction of new biosimilar products and expansion of medical devices to the EU and the ASEAN markets contributed to the improvement in sales.
Meanwhile, semiconductor exports slowed down 2.7 percent to $8.8 billion. Memory chip demand was robust, but the base effect and the sharp reduction of smartphone and PC sales in the first quarter led to the fall in exports.
Ships lost 31.4 percent to $1.4 billion and turned to negative growth for the first time in three months. This was primarily because of the base effect.
Outbound shipments of petrochemicals fell 9.0 percent to $3.3 billion due to the production disruptions after the explosion in the domestic facilities, fall in oil prices, and stagnation in the major industries such as automobiles and electronics.
Petroleum products contracted 5.9 percent due to the plunge in oil prices, decreased export prices, and the shrinkage in oil demand.
By region, outbound shipments to the U.S., the EU, the Middle East, and Japan increased while those to China, ASEAN, India, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and Central and South America decreased.
Exports to the U.S. climbed up 17.3 percent to $7.4 billion as a result of greater sales of automobiles, general machinery, semiconductors, and wireless communication devices.
Those to the EU improved 10.0 percent to $5.0 billion and turned to positive growth first time in six months. Automobiles, semiconductors, computers, and wireless communication devices led to the increase.
Outbound shipments to the Middle East grew 7.9 percent to $1.6 billion on the back of petrochemicals, steels, auto parts, and home appliances.
Those to Japan went up 13.9 percent to $2.6 billion and turned positive in eight months thanks to petroleum products, semiconductors, ships, and general machinery.
On the other hand, China went down 5.8 percent to $10.8 billion as a result of lower sales of petrochemicals, displays, petroleum products, and steel products.
Exports to ASEAN dropped 1.9 percent to $7.8 billion on general machinery, automobiles, and ships.
Those to India went down 9.4 percent to $1.3 billion because of general machinery and automobiles.
Those to the CIS fell 5.9 percent to $1.1 billion, led by weaker sales of automobiles, petroleum products, displays, and semiconductors.
Korean goods shipped to Central and South America decreased 25.8 percent to $2.0 billion. Displays, automobiles, home appliances, and petroleum products contributed to this contraction.