South Korea’s exports, a closely watched bellwether for world trade, fell more than expected last month, dealing a blow to nascent optimism that a prolonged slump in global demand might be bottoming out.
Exports dropped 14.3 percent from a year earlier for a sixth straight double-digit decline, South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy data showed yesterday.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a 9.7 percent fall.
Preliminary figures had also offered hope of some respite in the export slide.
Imports decreased 13 percent, while the trade surplus was US$3.4 billion, narrowing from US$5.3 billion in October.
The government was more upbeat on the outlook for next year, saying that shipments hit bottom in October and would rebound from the first quarter of next year.
“Korea is not the only casualty of the US-China trade dispute, a slowdown in the global economy and no-deal Brexit,” the ministry said, adding that most of the world’s 10 biggest exporting countries had seen shipments decline as of September.
“We’re particularly harder hit because of heavy reliance on China by region and semiconductor by sector,” it said.
The trade data showed that chip exports, the largest category in South Korea’s overseas shipments, dropped 30.8 percent, compared with falls of more than 30 percent in the past few months.
The export numbers add to signs that the Asian country is on course for its weakest economic growth in a decade.
The Bank of Korea on Friday slashed its growth projections for this year and the next by 0.2 percentage points to 2 percent and 2.3 percent respectively.
That would be the slowest pace since 2009 when the country suffered in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.
South Korea’s export-dependent economy has been one of the hardest hit by the US-China trade dispute and the disruptions it has caused in the global supply chain, with almost 40 percent of the nation’s shipments headed to the two countries.
Shipments to China dropped 12.2 percent last month from a year earlier, reflecting slowing growth in the world’s second largest economy and South Korea’s biggest export destination.
Exports to Japan fell 10.9 percent, while imports declined by 18.5 percent, as the two neighboring countries are engaged in their own trade dispute.
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