South Korea August exports plunge by most since 2009

South Korea's exports in August suffered their biggest fall in six years, hit by weak global demand and falling prices, the trade ministry said on Tuesday. Exports plunged 14.7 percent on-year to $39.33 billion, the largest percentage fall since August 2009 when the comparable figure dipped 20.9 percent on-year. It also represented the eighth consecutive month of decrease in exports. The trade ministry said exports would likely continue shrinking this month before seeing a slow recovery in the fourth quarter. "Overall exports will likely continue dropping for the remainder of the third quarter while shipments of semiconductors, mobile communication devices and other new products, such as OLED display panels and cosmetics, are expected to continue a positive growth," it said in a press statement. "Exports are expected to improve from the start of the fourth quarter on an increase in deliveries of ships and launches of new cars," it added. Low crude oil prices resulted in falls in the prices of the country's petrochemical products while shipments of offshore oil drilling plants were also affected, the ministry said. Exports to China, South Korea's largest trade partner, dropped 8.8 percent on-year, compared with a 6.4 percent fall in the previous month, amid slowing demand in China which was aggravated by the giant explosions in the port of Tianjin. Exports to Japan slumped 24.4 percent and to the EU by 20.8 percent, while exports to the United States fell 4.4 percent. The performance of main export items from the fourth-largest economy in Asia was mixed. Exports of IT and telecom products surged 19 percent and semiconductors were up 4.7 percent but ships plunged 51.4 percent, cars were down 9.1 percent, steel was down 17.4 percent and textiles were down 21.4 percent, the trade ministry said. South Korea, whose economy relies heavily on trade, saw its exports fall 10.9 percent on-year in May. The percentage decrease eased in the following two months, with a 1.8 percent decline in June and 3.3 percent in July. Imports in August dived at an even greater rate of 18.3 percent on-year to $34.98 billion, leaving a $4.35 billion trade surplus. The trade balance has been in the black since February 2012.

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