S. Korea Exports Slow as Southeast Asia Demand Declines

South Korea’s exports slowed last month as demand from Southeast Asian nations fell and the won’s advance weighed on exporters’ price competitiveness.

Overseas shipments rose 0.2 percent in November from a year earlier, down from a revised 7.2 percent gain the previous month, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in an e-mailed statement today. The median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of 12 economists was for a 3 percent increase.

The slowdown in exports threatens to derail the recovery in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, making it unlikely the Bank of Korea will raise its benchmark rate this month. The won was the best performer among Asian currencies last month, rising 0.2 percent against the dollar and hitting a five-year high against the yen.

“Major economies are improving, which will boost our exports,” the ministry said in the statement. “However, the won’s appreciation and the expected tapering of the U.S. quantitative easing program will remain as a risk.”

Imports fell 0.6 percent from a year earlier, bringing the monthly trade surplus to $4.8 billion, today’s report showed.

Overseas shipments to members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations dropped 11.2 percent from a year earlier, and those to Japan fell 6.4 percent, the ministry said. In contrast, exports to China and the U.S. climbed 3.7 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively.

Indonesian Slowdown

The ministry’s statement cited Indonesia’s economic slowdown as one reason for the fall in shipments to the ASEAN region.

Indonesia’s growth in the three months through September slowed to the weakest since the 2009 global recession as a declining rupiah restrained investment in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. The Indonesian currency fell 5.8 percent against the dollar in November.

South Korean authorities are watching the foreign-exchange market for drastic movements, Finance Minister Hyun Oh Seok told reporters in Seoul on Nov. 25. The weak yen may hurt some South Korean exporters, the Bank of Korea warned in its quarterly report on domestic regional economies on Nov. 27.

The BOK kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged in November for a sixth straight month, as 14-year-low inflation provided room to support growth against risks from currency volatility. The monetary policy committee meets to decide on the rate on Dec. 12.

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