S.Korea’s chips exports rise for first time in more than a year

By Jihoon Lee and Cynthia Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea’s exports beat expectations and accelerated in November as overseas sales of chips rose for the first time in 16 months, adding to evidence global demand is strengthening.

Exports by Asia’s fourth-largest economy gained 7.8% year-on-year to $55.80 billion, speeding up from a rise of 5.1% a month before to mark the fastest growth since July 2022 and also beating a 4.7% gain in a Reuters poll of economist forecasts.

Chips exports snapped 15 months of declines and rose 12.9%, in an indication that the slump in semiconductor demand may be bottoming out.

“Exports are surely rebounding thanks to a recovery in chip demand. Car sales are also strong, so we expect overall exports to post a growth of 8% next year,” said Lee Da Eun, an economist at Daishin Securities.

“Having said that, momentum behind chip sales isn’t as strong as we had expected and there is also downside risks from tepid recovery of the Chinese economy.”

South Korean policymakers are pinning hopes on a revival of chip demand to boost growth as restrictive interest rates at home restrain domestic demand.

On Thursday, the Bank of Korea kept monetary policy unchanged and signaled it may need to keep interest rates higher for longer to head off persistent inflation risks.

By destination, exports to the United States jumped 24.7% to log a fourth consecutive month of gains, but shipments to China, its biggest trading partner, declined 0.2%.

Imports fell 11.6% to $52.0 billion, compared with losses of 9.7% the month before and 8.6% expected by economists.

As a result, the country posted a trade surplus of $3.80 billion in November. It was the biggest monthly surplus since September 2021.

Exports for 12 of the country’s 15 main export items increased in November, including a 38.5% surge in ship exports. Car exports jumped 21.5%, extending gains to a 17th consecutive month.

(Reporting by Jihoon Lee and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Sam Holmes)