South Korea June 1-20 exports rise for first time in 10 months

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea’s exports for the first 20 days of June rose 5.3% from the same period a year earlier, customs agency data showed on Wednesday, marking the first increase in 10 months.

It was the first time since August 2022 that 20-day exports data logged a year-on-year gain. Exports in May fell for the eighth straight month, when softer declines in chip and China-bound shipments raised hopes for a bottoming out.

Exports of cars jumped 110.1%, ships surged 148.7%, but semiconductors and petroleum products fell 23.5% and 36.0%, respectively.

By destination, shipments to the United States and European Union gained 18.4% and 26.4%, respectively, while those to China fell 12.5%.

“It was a surprise and encouraging to see a much softer fall in chip exports,” Meritz Securities’ chief economist Stephen Lee said, adding that the data indicates expansion for the full month by simple calculation.

“Given still difficult external conditions, however, we will need to watch for a couple more months to make the call that exports are turning around in trend,” Lee added.

South Korea’s exports are seen growing in the third quarter from the preceding three months for the first time in 1-1/2 years, according to a survey by the country’s biggest exporter group.

During the June 1-20 period, exports were down 2.0% on average per working day, as there was one more business day compared with the year before.

Imports fell 11.2%, bringing the country’s trade balance for the period to a deficit of $1.61 billion.

South Korea will release its trade figures for the full month on Saturday, July 1.

(Reporting by Jihoon Lee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Jacqueline Wong)