South Korean exports rose less than forecast last month as improving global demand for the country’s electronics and cars was tempered by a weaker Japanese yen.
Overseas shipments rose 0.4 percent in March from a year earlier, after an 8.6 percent drop in February, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 11 economists was for a 1.8 percent gain. Consumer prices rose 1.3 percent last month from a year ago, according to a Statistics Korea report.
Policy makers’ efforts to boost growth in Asia’s fourth- largest economy have been aided by a won that’s declined 4.6 percent against the dollar since Jan. 1. President Park Geun Hye’s government has pledged to enact new stimulus measures this month after cutting the 2013 growth forecast to 2.3 percent from 3 percent last week.
“Overall global demand is improving, though the pace is still slow,” Lee Sang Jae, a Seoul-based economist at Hyundai Securities Co., said before the release. “Policy makers want to drive the growth faster with every possible means.”
Imports fell 2 percent from a year earlier in March, the ministry said today. The trade surplus widened to $3.4 billion from $2 billion in February.
Even as the won fell against the dollar, the South Korean currency gained about 21 percent against the yen in the past six months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The economy expanded last year at the slowest pace since 2009.
South Korean companies have complained that the weakening Japanese yen is blunting their competitiveness. The Federation of Korean Industries, the nation’s largest business lobby group, said in February that with Haruhiko Kuroda leading the Bank of Japan (8301), the yen will likely decline further.
Samsung Electronics Co. (005930) said in January that currency gains could reduce its operating profit by 3 trillion won ($2.8 billion) this year. Kia Motors Corp. (000270) reported a 51 percent slump in operating profit for the fourth quarter of 2012, saying a difficult year is expected with a strengthening won.
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