South Korea’s trade balance recorded a deficit in March as surging imports outpaced double-digit export growth due to soaring fuel prices.
The country’s exports totaled $63.48 billion in March, jumping 18.2 percent year-on-year, according to data released Friday by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Imports grew at a faster rate of 27.9% to $63.62 billion. Both are monthly records.
This is the 17th consecutive month of export growth for the country, with double-digit annual growth for more than 13 consecutive months.
March shipments were led by semiconductors and petrochemicals, which recorded $13.12 billion and $5.42 billion, respectively.
Global demand for Korea’s other main export products remained robust. Exports of mobile devices jumped 44.5% year on year, screens by 48.4%, petroleum products by 90.1% and steel by 26.8%. Biotechnology exports rose 24.2%.
Exports to Korea’s three main export markets all reached record highs. Shipments to China increased by 16.6%, the United States by 19.9% and ASEAN countries by 44.4%. Exports to the Middle East increased by 17.4% and Central and South America by 25.6%.
Imports hit a monthly high as rising global energy prices cost Korea a record $16.19 billion in crude oil, gas and coal purchases.
Korea’s crude imports soared 72% year-on-year, liquefied natural gas imports 200% and coal imports 441%, while the global oil price rose above 110 dollars a barrel in March due to fears of shortages due to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.
Korea’s trade balance slipped back into the red at $140 million after returning to a surplus in February.
The Korea Economic Research Institute predicts the trade deficit will continue as import prices are expected to remain high due to soaring energy prices.
The research institute said Korea’s trade balance fell by $72 million for every 1% increase in the price of imports. He estimated that the trade balance would have lost $4.23 billion in the Jan-Mach period, as import prices rose 58.5% year-on-year in the first quarter.
By Cho Jeehyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business News Korea & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]