South Korea's July 1-20 exports fall further on extended Covid-19 lockdowns

SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korean exports extended their contraction during the first 20 days of July and by a larger percentage than in June as a protracted coronavirus lockdown and delay in economic reopening across the world continued to upend global demand.

The country’s overseas sales during July 1-20 dropped 12.8 per cent from the same period a year earlier, while imports slid 13.7 per cent, Korea Customs Service data showed on Tuesday (July 21). Exports fell 7.7 per cent during June 1-20, while imports slumped 11.4 per cent.

Average exports per working day tumbled 7.1 per cent during the period, much milder than a 16.2 per cent plunge in the same period last month.

“Although a quick recovery looks unlikely, the export decline is expected to slow in the second half as countries resume economic activities,” said Oh Chang-sob, economist at Hyundai Motor Securities.

“There may be some economic constraints due to continued lockdown, but a complete lockdown seen during the first half is unlikely to happen during the rest of the year,” Oh added.

Meanwhile by product, shipments of semiconductors, the country’s top exporting item, fell 1.7 per cent, while those of cars and petroleum products plunged 14.0 per cent and 41.6 per cent, respectively. Those of computer-related devices, however, surged 56.9 per cent.

Exports to China, South Korea’s largest trading partner which takes in a quarter of total shipments, slid 0.8 per cent on year in the 20-day period. Those to the United States and the European Union dropped 2.4 per cent and 11.9 per cent each.

“Trade conditions are improving on better demand from developed economies in addition to a recovery in demand from China,” said Lee Seung-hoon, economist at Meritz Securities, who also sees export decline slowing in the second half of the year.

Outbound shipments fell 11.3 per cent overall during the first half of the year, after dropping 12.0 per cent in the preceding six months.

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