(LEAD) Exports fall 14.6 pct from Feb. 1-10; chip sales jump over 40 pct

SEOUL, South Korea's exports fell nearly 15 percent on-year in the first 10 days of February due mainly to fewer working days, but sales of semiconductors soared more than 40 percent, data showed Tuesday. Outbound shipments reached US$15.01 billion in the Feb. 1-10 period, compared with $17.57 billion tallied a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Customs Service. Per-day exports, however, increased 11.7 percent on-year to $2.31 billion. The number of working days came to 6.5 days during the cited period this year, compared with 8.5 days a year earlier. South Korea's Lunar New Year holiday ran from Feb. 9-12 this year. Exports, a key economic growth engine, advanced 18 percent on-year to $54.6 billion in January, the fourth consecutive monthly gain, on the back of strong demand for semiconductors. Imports sank 24.6 percent on-year to $17.01 billion during the period, resulting in a trade deficit of $2 billion. By item, exports of semiconductors surged 42.2 percent to $2.78 billion during the Feb. 1-10 period. It was the first time since November 2021 that chip exports jumped more than 40 percent during the first 10 days of a month when semiconductor sales soared 45.2 percent. Chip sales accounted for 18.5 percent of the country's total exports, up 4.7 percentage points from a year earlier. But exports of petroleum products lost 21 percent to $1.37 billion and those of vehicles sank 36.3 percent to $1.11 billion. Steel products and auto parts also saw global sales fall 23.6 percent and 13.3 percent, respectively. By destination, exports to the United States, a top trading partner, decreased 12.4 percent to $2.84 billion during the cited period. Shipments to China went down 20.3 percent to $2.82 billion, and those to the European Union dived 35.5 percent to $1.45 billion. Exports to Vietnam declined 19.2 percent to $1.28 billion, while those to Hong Kong surged 143.1 percent to $813 million, the data showed. The government expected exports to advance 8.5 percent this year to reach a rec ord high of over $700 billion. Source: Yonhap News Agency