March‘s trade volume marks first fall since late 2009
Korea's exports and imports fell on-year for the first time in two and a half years in March, due mainly to a drop in overseas delivery of ships and weak local demand for commodities, a government report showed Sunday.
Despite the first negative trade growth since October 2009, the country's trade balance remained in the black for the second month in a row to the tune of $2.33 billion, according to the report by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
The country's exports reached $47.36 billion in March, down 1.4 percent on-year, with imports contracting 1.2 percent to $45.03 billion, the monthly report said.
Last month's positive trade balance is larger than the $1.53 billion surplus tallied for February, when the country shipped out $46.39 billion worth of goods and imported $44.86 billion. In October 2009, the country posted a trade surplus of $3.63 billion but its exports and imports contracted 8.5 percent and 16.0 percent, respectively from the previous year.
On a daily basis, the country exported $2.02 billion worth of goods.
"Overall volume increased from February yet fell short of numbers reached in March 2011 when the country's export of ships boomed and shipments to Japan jumped because of the devastation caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami," the ministry said.
Last month's imports were affected by local companies buying less commodities such as crude oil and natural gas from abroad as global prices soared vis-a-vis the year before.
The country imported 73.2 million barrels of crude oil and 4.15 million ton of gas, down from 80.1 million barrels and 4.29 million tons a year earlier.
The ministry said exports of autos, refined petroleum products and car parts all grew on-year, but those gains were offset by weak demand for ships and mobile communication devices.
Shipments of autos jumped 35.1 percent on-year with numbers for petroleum products going up 7.6 percent. Exports of ships and mobile devices, however, plunged 27.6 percent and 32.0 percent, respectively.
The ministry, which is in charge of the country's industrial policies and trade promotion, said exports to the Middle East,
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the United States did well, although shipments to the European Union (EU) and China fell sharply last month from a year earlier.
Exports to the United States surged 27.1 percent on-year, with figures gaining 28.1 percent and 17 percent for Middle East and CIS countries. Shipments to the EU and China, on the other hand, contracted by 20.3 percent and 0.7 percent on-year.
Negative growth to China, South Korea's largest export market, affected overall outbound shipment numbers.
For the first quarter, Asia's fourth largest economy exported $134.95 billion and imported $133.33 billion worth of goods for a trade surplus of around $1.62 billion. (Yonhap)