South Korean exports in the first 20 days of this month increased at the fastest pace in more than two years, as global trade recovered and a worldwide shortage of chips boosted prices of the country’s core trade product.
Exports rose 16.7 percent during the period, the most since October 2018, as sales of semiconductors jumped, the South Korean Customs Service reported yesterday.
Overall, average daily shipments increased by an even bigger margin, because the period had fewer working days this year due to the timing of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Photo: EPA-EFE/ YONHAP
The report indicates a recovery in overseas demand is well under way, as vaccination drives pick up speed in major markets.
The data also comes after Taiwan on Saturday forecast the nation would clock the fastest economic growth in seven years this year as a global scramble for semiconductors boosts its exports.
Some economists warned that sales of the chips that have supported South Korea’s exports could slow, as the COVID-19 pandemic passes and demand for work and study from home solutions reverts back to something closer to pre-virus days.
“The so-called untact culture has so far helped drive chips, but there’s also a chance vaccinations and new spending by chipmakers may slow down the rally,” Hi Investment & Securities Co analyst Song Myung-sup said, referring to technologies that help people maintain social distance. “The chip shortage is likely to deepen at least until the end of the first half.”
Sales of semiconductors jumped 27.5 percent in the first 20 days of the month, as a worsening shortfall accelerated orders and pushed up the prices of chips used to produce everything from cars to touch screens.
The momentum in exports contrasts with deteriorating economic conditions at home, with the unemployment rate jumping to the highest in more than two decades last month.
The Bank of Korea is expected to consider the uneven recovery as its board convenes this week for a rate decision.
The overall picture for exports was more positive when looking at the value of daily shipments, which gained 29.2 percent. The period had 1.5 fewer working days than last year due to the shifting dates of the Lunar New Year holiday.
Shipments to China, South Korea’s largest overseas market, surged 32.7 percent from a year earlier during the first 20 days of the month. Exports to the US rose 14 percent, while sales to the EU jumped 53.6 percent.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) is expected to post a 25 percent year-on-year increase in sales in the first quarter of this year to US$12.91 billion, up from US$10.31 billion a year earlier, as its production is at full capacity, market advisory firm TrendForce Corp said in a note last week. The increase would help TSMC cement its leadership in the industry by taking a 56 percent market share in the global pure wafer foundry business, TrendForce said. Its forecast was in line with TSMC’s estimate in January, which pointed to a range of US$12.7 billion to US$13 billion for the
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