(2nd LD) Exports rise for 4th month in January on semiconductor recovery

South Korea's exports moved up for the fourth consecutive month in January as exports of chips rose at the sharpest rate in around six years, data showed Thursday. Outbound shipments advanced 18 percent on-year to US$54.6 billion last month, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Imports fell 7.8 percent on-year to $54.3 billion last month, resulting in a trade surplus of $300 million. South Korea has been maintaining a monthly trade surplus since June 2023. By sector, exports of chips shot up 56.2 percent on-year in January to $9.37 billion, growing for three consecutive months and marking the sharpest increase since the 64.9 percent rise tallied in December 2017. The ministry attributed the recovery to the improved overseas prices after major memory chip producers scaled down their production. The rising popularity of mobile devices featuring high-end memory chips, coupled with increasing demand for chips within the artificial intelligence sector, further bolste red the overall growth, it added. Outbound shipments of automobiles also expanded for 19 consecutive months by increasing 24.8 percent to hit $6.2 billion, the highest for any January. The robust performance came on the back of the stronger demand for eco-friendly cars in the U.S. and Europe, according to the ministry. Exports of machinery products rose 14.5 percent to $4.4 billion on the back of the demand from the U.S. and Southeast Asia. Outbound shipments of display products also rose 2.1 percent to $1.3 billion on the demand from the TV sector. Exports of ships advanced 76 percent over the period to $2.5 billion, led by the container and liquefied natural gas carriers, the data also showed. By destination, exports to China, the top trading partner for Asia's No. 4 economy, rose 16.1 percent on-year to $10.7 billion. It was the first on-year growth since a 1.3 percent rise posted in May 2022. The ministry said the recovery came as gains from chips and computers offset the weaker demand for petrochem ical products in China. Shipments to the United States also expanded for six consecutive months to $10.2 billion, up 26.9 percent on-year, led by cars, machinery and computers. Those to Southeast Asia and Japan rose 5.8 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively. Exports, a key economic growth engine for South Korea, rebounded in October after 13 months of an on-year decline. "As we begin the year 2024, all four puzzle pieces of exports have aligned, namely posting a net growth in shipments to China, witnessing a rise in outbound shipments, achieving a trade surplus, and reaching a rebound in chip exports," Industry Minister Ahn Duk-geun said in a statement. Ahn added the government will continue to make efforts to put exports on the recovery track amid the prolonged global monetary tightening moves and the reshuffling global supply chain in the wake of the U.S.-China competition. Source: Yonhap News Agency