South Korea’s exports jumped 20.2 percent last month from a year earlier expanding at the fastest clip in five years on rising oil prices and recovering world trade, government data showed Wednesday.
Outbound shipments came to $43.2 billion in February, up from $35.9 billion tallied a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
The February rate of increase was the largest on-year gain since February 2012 when it posted a 20.4 percent monthly jump.
It is the first time since November 2011 that the nation’s exports have posted a double-digit growth for two months in a row.
Imports expanded 23.3 percent on-year to $36 billion in February.
Last month’s trade surplus came to $7.2 billion, marking the 61st consecutive month of a surplus.
The average daily exports value rose 9.3 percent on-year to an eight-month high of $1.96 billion last month, with won-denominated exports also rising 13.1 percent.
The upturn is largely driven by South Korea’s key export items like semiconductors, flat displays, petrochemical products and cars.
Exports of Korea-made chips soared 54.2 percent on-year to record $6.4 billion in February on the back of increased demand for mobile chips.
Rising oil prices helped overseas shipments of petrochemicals surge 42.6 percent on-year to reach $3.81 billion, the largest since October 2014, while exports of flat screens continued their upside cycle to jump 20.1 percent last month from a year earlier.
Exports of cars made a turnaround for the first time in two months to gain 9.6 percent on-year on rising demand from emerging countries like Russia.
On the other hand, exports of ships plunged 29.5 percent on-year amid a protracted slump in the offshore plant industry in the world.
Outbound shipments of wireless devices, such as mobile phones, also fell for seven straight months to record a 21 percent on-year drop in February in the aftermath of the global production halt of the Galaxy Note 7.
By region, South Korea’s exports to China vaulted 28.7 percent last month from a year earlier to mark the first four consecutive months of increase in 34 months, while those to the United States edged up 1.7 percent in February on increased demand for cars and petrochemical goods, rebounding from a 1.9 percent drop in the previous month.
Exports to Vietnam gained ground for 13 months in a row in February, with exports to Japan also landing in positive terrain for four straight months.
The ministry expected the upbeat trend to continue in the following month, but rising uncertainties in the world economy may create a possible drag on the country’s recovering exports.
Asia’s fourth-largest economy had experienced a long slump in exports, the key economic driver, posting 19 straight months of minus growth from January 2015 to July 2016.
It made a turnaround in November last year and continued the uptick for four straight months as rising oil prices boosted demand from emerging markets.
“The recent recovering pace of exports will become more solid.
Exports will ride on the right recovery track in March,” the trade ministry said in a release. “But we will not let our guard down as widespreading trade protectionism and widening foreign exchange fluctuation are gaining ground in the world.”