South Korea’s March exports rise as virus drives teleconference demand



Joori Roh and Cynthia Kim | Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean exports rose 10.0% in the first 20 days of March year-on-year as lockdowns across the world to prevent the coronavirus fueled demand for teleconferencing technology and components.

Outbound shipments of semiconductors, the nation’s major export, jumped 20.3% on-year, the Korea Customs Service data showed on Monday, better than a 15.4% rise seen a month earlier.

“Demand from cloud computing firms have boosted sales of server chips, while an increase in telecommuting in the United States and China has also been a main drive to huge server demand,” a trade ministry official told Reuters.

“But exports in April and May will worsen,” the official added, reflecting the significant fall in exporting contracts seen from February.

Chip giant Samsung Electronics (005930.KS) said last week the pandemic would hurt sales of smartphones and consumer electronics this year, although the chip market – which makes up about half of Samsung’s operating profit – would see demand growth.

Average exports per working day slid 0.4% during the period when eliminating the calendar effect, slower than a 9.3% decrease in Feb. 1-20 period. There were 1.5 more working days in the first 20 days of this month compared with the same period last year.

The fast-spreading virus has triggered a shutdown in factories across the globe, disrupting manufacturing and global supply chains.

Separately, a survey of 915 exporters on Monday showed Korean firms overwhelmingly expect shipments to fall in the second quarter as lockdowns and quarantines across the world hit global demand.

The Korea International Trade Association index of the outlook for exports for the April-June period plunged to a seven-year low, as demand from trading partners declined and raw material costs soared.

A growing number of analysts expect Asia’s fourth largest economy to contract this year, with S&P Global Ratings now seeing a 0.6% fall.

More than 305,000 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and more than 13,000 have died, with deaths in Italy surpassing the toll in China, where the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally.

South Korea on Monday reported 64 new infections, the lowest since the peak on Feb. 29, and brought the national tally to 8,961.


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