S. Korea’s exports up 13.4 pct on-year in May

SEJONG-- South Korea's exports jumped 13.4 percent last month from a year earlier to extend their winning streak to seven months on the back of brisk overseas sales of computer chips and displays, the trade ministry said Thursday.

Outbound shipments came to US$45 billion last month, up from $39.7 billion tallied a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The country's exports have been on a steady rise since November led by an upturn in oil prices and recovering global trade.

It is the first time since September 2011 that exports hit double-digit growth for five straight months.

The average export value per working day advanced 16 percent on-year to $2.14 billion, down slightly from a nearly three-year high of $2.27 billion in the previous month, with won-denominated shipments also rising 8.9 percent for seven straight months.

Imports soared 18.2 percent on-year to $39.1 billion in May.

Last month's trade surplus came to $6 billion, marking 64 straight months of a surplus, the ministry said.

The trade ministry said the rally in exports is led by rising global demand for South Korea's key export items like semiconductors, displays, petrochemical products and cars.

Exports of locally made chips, which have played a major role in spearheading the upbeat mode in the country's exports since last year, shot up 63.3 percent on-year to a record $7.99 billion due to increasing demand for cutting-edge smartphones.

Overseas sales of flat screens continued their upside cycle to jump 13 percent last month from a year earlier on stellar sales of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels, while shipments of computers with solid-state drives (SSD) gained 8.9 percent in May for the second consecutive month.

Exports of petroleum products increased 29.8 percent on an uptick in oil prices, and numbers for vehicles climbed 3.6 percent, marking the first double-digit growth since July 2014.

However, exports of wireless devices sank 37 percent on-year to extend their losing streak to 10 months on an expansion of overseas production.

Shipments of auto parts also decreased 12.4 percent as local carmakers expanded their overseas production facilities, while overseas sales of home appliances slumped 21 percent on-year, dragged down by a 62.7 percent plunge in television exports.

By region, South Korea's shipments to China, the largest export market, expanded 7.5 percent last month from a year earlier to mark the first seven straight months of gains since April 2014, while those to Vietnam soared 56.9 percent, expanding for the 16th month in a row.

Exports to Japan also landed in positive terrain for the seventh months in a row to post an 8.7 percent on-year increase in May led by a rise in exports of petrochemicals and steel products.

Exports to the United States, however, fell 1.9 percent in May, backtracking from a 3.9 percent rise in the previous month due mainly to a drop in demand for cars and wireless devices. A trade surplus with the world's largest economy fell by $870 million to $915 million last month on a 19.5 percent jump in imports from the U.S.

For the first five months of 2017, South Korea posted $6.9 billion in trade surplus with the U.S., down $4 billion from a year earlier.

The South Korean government has made efforts to reduce a surplus with the U.S. that reached $25.8 billion in 2015 and $23.2 billion in 2016 as the Trump government has blamed the Seoul-Washington free trade pact for destroying jobs.

The trade ministry said South Korea's exports will continue to enjoy an upturn in global trade in the remaining months of 2017.

"In the latter half of the year, exports may experience a drop to some extent due to decreased working days, but the upside trend will not likely subside," Deputy Trade Minister Chae Hee-bong said in a briefing. "Basically, it is not a short-lived tendency."

He said trade issues with the U.S. and China will be also eased in the coming months as the new Moon Jae-in government took office last month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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