(2nd LD) Exports rise for 5th straight month in February

SEOUL, South Korea's exports moved up for the fifth consecutive month in February as the outbound shipments of chips maintained an upward trajectory, data showed Friday. Outbound shipments advanced 4.8 percent on-year to US$52.4 billion last month, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Imports shed 13.1 percent on-year to $48.1 billion last month, resulting in a trade surplus of $4.29 billion. South Korea has maintained a trade surplus since June 2023. By sector, exports of chips jumped 66.7 percent on-year in February to $9.94 billion, growing for the fourth consecutive month and marking the sharpest increase since the 69.6 percent rise tallied in October 2017. The ministry attributed the growth to the increasing investment in the artificial intelligence sector by major companies, coupled with the rising shipments to key production hubs, such as China and Vietnam. Exports of ships moved up 27.2 percent over the period to $1.98 billion, advancing for seven consecu tive months on the back of container and liquefied natural gas carriers. Shipments of display products also gained 20.2 percent to $1.34 billion, following the release of new organic light-emitting diode TVs and tablets. Outbound shipments of automobiles, on the other hand, shed 7.8 percent over the period to $5.15 billion, due to the reduced production following the Lunar New Year holiday. Exports of petrochemical products shed 3.1 percent to $3.93 billion due to the weaker demand from China, along with the falling global prices, the ministry added. By destination, exports to China, the top trading partner for Asia's No. 4 economy, edged down 2.4 percent on-year in February to $9.65 billion. South Korea nevertheless reported its first trade surplus with China since September 2022. Outbound shipments to the United States added 9 percent to $9.8 billion, on the back of machines and chips, extending on-year gains to seven consecutive months. "In February, it was notable that exports increased by a single digit despite challenges such as the Lunar New Year holiday, and when considering the number of working days, outbound shipments rose by two digits amid the upward momentum," Industry Minister Ahn Duk-geun said in a statement. The country's daily average exports came to $2.56 billion in February, up 12.5 percent from a year earlier. Exports, a key economic growth engine for South Korea, rebounded in October after 13 months of an on-year decline. Outbound shipments decreased 7.4 percent on-year in 2023 amid the sluggish performance of chips coupled with global economic uncertainties. The government earlier set this year's export target at $700 billion. Source: Yonhap News Agency