South Korea's trade balance posted a surplus of 476 million U.S. dollars in January, staying in the black for 12 straight months, as exports grew faster than imports, customs office data showed Thursday.
Exports increased 10.9 percent from a year ago to 45.68 billion dollars in January after falling 5.7 percent in the prior month, according to the Korea Customs Service (KCS). The reading was revised down from a preliminary estimate of an 11.8 percent growth announced earlier this month.
Major export items showed outperformance, with exports of petroleum products and consumer electronics rising 10.8 percent and 13.8 percent respectively. Shipments of telecommunication devices grew for five straight months, and semiconductor exports increased 9 percent despite weak demand for memory chips.
Display panel exports continued to rise since October last year, and automobile shipments jumped 23.6 percent on strong demand from the United States, the European Union (EU) and the Middle East. Ship exports sank 22.1 percent due to overall sluggishness in the shipbuilding industry.
Helped by brisk exports, the country's trade surplus with China was 4.11 billion dollars in January, with those with the United States and the Southeast Asian nations amounting to 1.44 billion dollars and 4 billion dollars each.
South Korea posted a trade deficit with Japan and the Middle East that reached 1.53 billion dollars and 8 billion dollars respectively.
Imports in January rose 3.9 percent from the prior year to 45. 21 billion dollars. Oil imports fell 1.5 percent amid lower oil prices, but consumer goods imports surged 13 percent amid improving sentiment among South Korean consumers. Capital goods imports increased 4.7 percent due to demand for machinery, auto parts, ships and telecom devices.