Korea’s Exports Extend Recovery in January, Early Data Show

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South Korea’s early trade data showed exports continued to rise in January, as demand for tech products stayed resilient amid a global resurgence of the coronavirus.

Exports rose 11% in the first 20 days of the month from a year earlier, the customs office reported Thursday. Average daily shipments increased at the same pace so far in January, the fastest since 2018 and compared with gains of 7.9% during December and 6.4% in November.

Exports to China, the U.S. and the European Union all posted double-digit gains during the period. Korea’s overall semiconductor shipments increased 12%.

The report, closely watched as an early indicator of global trade, suggests demand is on the mend despite some countries placing stricter curbs on activity. Vaccinations kicking off in major economies such as the U.S. and Europe are adding to hopes of a normalization of global trade this year, though it will take a significant time until inoculation is widespread enough to bolster activity across the board.

“Companies are moving forward with capital expenditures ahead of the expected surge in demand after normalcy is restored,” said Lee Jae-sun, an analyst at Hana Financial Investment Co. “It’s hard to tell the pace of recovery yet, but a return to growth in earnings is within sight following a trough last year.”

South Korea is expecting an improvement in tech exports to support the economy this year. The government sees a 10% increase in chip exports, and an 8.6% rise in overall shipments, as the key drivers that would put the economy back on track for growth above 3%.

The Thursday report showed exports to China jumped the 19% during Jan. 1-20, while shipments to the U.S. rose 19% and those to the European Union increased 16%. Sales to Japan fell 11%.

Total shipments of cars rose 16%, while oil products decreased 46%. Sales of computer devices fell 1.1%.

South Korea’s overall imports rose 1.5% in the first 20 days of January. The data for the full month is released on Feb. 1.

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