S.Korea current account surplus at 4-month high

South Korea's current account surplus in March rose to a four-month high thanks to robust auto and petrochemical exports, according to the central bank.

The surplus in the account -- the broadest measure of trade -- was $3.04 billion last month compared to a revised $557 million surplus in February and $1.33 billion in March 2011.

It was the biggest surplus since $4.56 billion in November.

Asia's fourth-largest economy achieved a surplus of $3 billion in goods trade compared to $1.31 billion in February.

Exports on a customs-cleared basis were worth $47.42 billion, up from $46.4 billion in February, on steady demand from the United States and the Middle East.

Growth in shipments to Southeast Asia and Japan slowed and exports to the European Union, China and Latin America contracted. Exports to European countries fell 20.5 percent in March year-on-year.

"Car and refined petroleum exports led growth and helped offset losses in ships and electronics," the bank said in a statement.

Imports fell to $44.42 billion in March from $44.55 billion the previous month.

The service sector account saw a $700 million surplus last month as more tourists arrived and due to profits generated through intellectual property rights. The account recorded a $1.22 billion deficit in February.

The capital and financial account, covering cross-border investments, posted a net outflow of $1.63 billion in March compared to a revised outflow of $960 million the previous month.

Analysts expect the current account to stay in the black throughout the year, supporting the won, although the size of the surplus was expected to shrink over time.

-- Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this report --

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