South Korea's trade balance stayed in the black for 22 straight months in November as a reduction in imports offset a slower increase in exports, a government report showed Sunday.
Trade surplus was 4.8 billion U.S. dollars in November, almost unchanged from a 4.88-billion-dollar surplus in the prior month, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE). The trade balance kept its surplus trend since Feb. 2012.
From January to November, the accumulative trade surplus reached 40.55 billion dollars, nearing a record high of 41.17 billion dollars tallied in 2010. This year's trade surplus was widely expected to top the 2010 figure.
Exports, which account for around half of the economy, inched up 0.2 percent from a year earlier to 47.92 billion dollars in November.
The figure was down from a 7.2 percent gain in the previous month. The country's exports topped the 50-billion-dollar mark in October for the first time in its history.
A fall in imports offset the slower export growth. Imports reduced 0.6 percent from a year earlier to 43.11 billion dollars in November after increasing 5.2 percent in the prior month.
Despite the slower exports, demand for tech products remained robust. Shipments of telecommunication devices, including smartphones, jumped 12.6 percent in November from a year earlier.
Semiconductor exports increased 8.2 percent on the back of rising prices of memory chips, and auto shipments rose 4.7 percent due to the end of labor strikes in major carmakers. Exports of ships surged 30.5 percent due to a rise in delivery of high-priced ships such as drill ships.
Steel exports dropped 20.3 percent last month, showing underperformance for almost the whole year. Shipments of general machinery and liquid crystal display declined 14.6 percent and 13. 4 percent respectively.
Exports to major economies expanded on the back of modest global recovery. Exports to the United States rose 2.9 percent last month through it was a fall from a 23.1 percent surge in the prior month, and those to China and Europe increased 3.7 percent and 6.8 percent each.
Exports to Japan reduced 6.4 percent on-year in November, continuing its falling trend amid the weak Japanese yen trend. Shipments to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declined 11.2 percent last month due to a slowdown in Indonesia.
Imports of natural gas increased 15.5 percent last month due to strong demand from power plants, but inbound shipments of other major raw materials such as crude oil and coal decreased amid lower commodity prices.
The trade ministry cited strong currency and possible tapering of the U.S. asset purchases as negative risk factors, forecasting that the exports managed to keep its growth trend despite the risk factors.
The won/dollar exchange rate declined to 1,056.4 won on Nov. 19, nearing to this year's low of 1,054.3 won. The currency surged to the highest in around five years against the Japanese yen on Nov. 22.