In September, exports slumped by 8.2 percent to USD 50.6 billion, the steepest decrease since July 2016, due to fewer working days linked to the Chuseok holiday and a high base effect, and after a 8.7 percent rise in August. Figures came worse than market expectations of a 5.7 percent fall . Exports of vehicles tumbled 22.4 percent, due to fewer working days, despite upbeat in exports to the US. On the other hand, exports of ships tumbled 55.5 percent, due to high base effect and slumping global demand. Also, sales of displays went down 12.1 percent. In contrast, sales of semiconductors jumped 28.3 percent, driven by solid sales of high-value memory chips and storage devices. Also, sales of petroleum goods grew 13.5 percent, supported by solid demand and higher oil prices.
Among major trading partners, sales to the US dropped 11.8 percent, due to a fall in demand for petroleum goods and wireless communication equipment, offsetting brisk sales of autos, machinery and computers. Exports to China, South Korea’s largest trading partner, increased 7.8 percent, marking the 23rd straight month of growth, on the back of higher sales of general machinery, petrochemicals, petroleum products and steel.
Inbound shipments unexpectedly dropped by 2.1 percent year-on-year to USD 40.8 billion, after an upwardly revised 9.4 percent rise in a month earlier and missing market estimates of a 3.1 percent growth.
Considering the first nine months of 2018, the trade surplus narrowed sharply to USD 55 billion from USD 75.1 billion in the same period the prior year.