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Korea's exports grow 12.6% in April 2022-05-02

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced on May 1 that Korea’s exports in April moved up 12.6 percent to USD 57.7 billion. Imports expanded 18.6 percent to $60.4 billion, resulting in a trade deficit of $2.7 billion.

Exports in April achieved double-digit growth for the 14th consecutive month since March of 2021 in spite of Ukraine-Russia crisis, China’s zero-COVID lockdowns and previous year’s base effect. Year-on-year double-digit growth for this April is all the more meaningful in that the same period of last year surged over 40 percent.

Daily exports (up 15.0 percent) also gained in comparison with last year, reaching $2.5 billion. Daily imports (up 21.0 percent) reached $2.6 billion.

Thirteen out of 15 major export items achieved growth in April.

Semiconductors (up 15.8 percent) continued strong, and recorded $10 billion plus in April for the first time, while also posting positive growth for the 22nd month. Chip prices rose by a wider margin than anticipated due to datacenter investments, and memory chips’ growth rate was supported by market dominance.

Exports of wireless communications devices climbed 8.3 percent due to high demand for newly released smart phones overseas and rising prices of camera modules.

For display products (up 21.8 percent), global excess of LCD panels is dragging down unit price, but OLED panels (up 41.1 percent) are still rising on the backs of widening demand. High value-added OLED panels are seeing a growth rate exceeding 20 percent for three consecutive months.

Computers (up 56.4 percent) faced uncertainties from China’s lockdowns of cities where down- and upstream industries’ manufacturing plants are concentrated, but heightened demand for consumer and enterprise SSDs (solid state drives) held the growth rate in the black. As a result, April 2022 saw highest exports value for computers as well as their 11th consecutive month of double-digit growth.

Secondary batteries (up 11.7 percent) increased for seven consecutive months, owing to major countries’ eco-friendly automobiles policies, flourishing EV battery markets, and U.S.-led rising global EV demand.

Petrochemicals (up 6.8 percent) enjoyed the combined effect of higher production churn-outs and soaring unit prices from high oil prices, and marked the 16th consecutive month of exports growth as well as historic April exports value. Petroleum products (up 68.8 percent) benefited from surging oil prices and unit price (up 80 percent).

Steel (up 21.1 percent) also broke past April records, thanks to dissipation of oversupply concerns and robust infrastructure investments in U.S. and Latin America. This is the 11th consecutive month for steel exports to cross the $3 billion threshold since June 2021.

Outbound shipments of petroleum products (up 68.8 percent) thrived from high refinery margins and utilization rate, achieving highest-ever April exports.

As for automobiles (up 6.1 percent), despite reduced exports to the CIS region and car parts supply chain crisis, broader overseas demand for EVs and high value-added products switched the growth rate back to positive from the momentary dip (down 9.7 percent) in March. In contrast, car parts suffered from chip shortage and overseas finished car production line halts.

New and promising sectors maintained their double-digit procession. Bio health products (up 14.2 percent) benefited from biosimilars and OEM vaccine exports, breaking all past April records. System semiconductors (up 36.6 percent), EVs (up 33.2 percent), and SSDs (up 92.0 percent) are among the promising items that continued to advance.

By region, outbound shipments to six out of nine major export destinations increased.

Exports to the U.S. (up 26.4 percent) are slowing down, but general machinery (up 46.6 percent), petroleum products (up 40.8 percent), and semiconductors (up 31.6 percent) are still driving positive growth, hitting over $9 billion for two consecutive months.

Shipments to the E.U. (up 7.4 percent) were driven to historic highs amid the ending of quarantine rules and anticipated economic recovery. Steel (up 86.6 percent), wireless communications devices (up 90.2 percent) and general machinery (up 15.6 percent) are some of the items that contributed most to the fresh peak.

Growing demand and production within the ASEAN region (up 37.3 percent) created higher demand for semiconductors (up 49.3 percent) and petroleum products (up 181.7 percent), and exports to this region entered the $10 billion threshold for six consecutive months.

Outbound shipments to Japan (up 6.2 percent) were powered by steel (up 9.2 percent), petrochemicals (up 71.7 percent), and computers (up 211.0 percent), posting growth for 14 consecutive months.

Exports to India (up 13.9 percent) increased for 14 consecutive months and hit highest exports for month of April. Petrochemicals (up 16.2 percent), steel (up 13.2 percent), wireless communications (up 108.5 percent) were top items.

To Latin America (up 17.9 percent), larger exports were attributable to greater demand for general machinery (up 27.2 percent), steel (up 56.7 percent), and car parts (up 25.8 percent).

Shipments to China (down 3.4 percent) expanded for semiconductors (up 18.2 percent), whereas others like petroleum products (down 63.2 percent) and general machinery (down 24.4 percent) fell, tugging down exports to China for the first time in 18 months.

Exports to the GCC region (down 2.7 percent) experienced a drop despite soaring automobiles (up 49.7 percent) exports, as bio health (down 11.4 percent) and secondary batteries (down 12.2 percent) both faltered.

Due to sanctions against Russia, exports to the CIS region (down 46.5 percent) slid for two consecutive months, and items like cars (down 69.5 percent), steel (down 67.4 percent), and car parts (down 55.2 percent) suffered.

April imports leaped in sync with the prices of oil and raw materials (agriculture, minerals).

Imported value of the three major energy sources (crude oil, gas, coal) amounted to $14.8 billion in April, which is a hefty $7.1 billion jump compared to same month of 2021.

Prices of flour and corn skyrocketed as world’s major breadbaskets (Ukraine, North America, Argentina, China) became handicapped due to various factors, pushing up agriculture imports to $2.4 billion.

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