Exports tumbled 14.7 percent from a year earlier to USD 46.8 billion in October, worse than market expectations of a 13.8 percent drop. That was the 11th consecutive month of decline and the biggest fall in nearly four years, largely due to the US-China conflict, as well as the stagnant semiconductor sector and a slowdown in the global economy.
Sales of semiconductors, which account for around 20 percent of total exports, plunged 32.1 percent. Memory chip prices exhibited a steadier trend, but they are still below last year’s level. The inventory of DRAM chips that remained at glut levels despite increasing demand also contributed to lower exports. Also, shipments of petrochemicals declined 22.6 percent on the back of falling demand, decreasing prices, and higher regular maintenance; while exports of secondary batteries dropped 11.2 percent from an all-time high reached in October 2018.
Meanwhile, bio-health products gained 7.8 percent as the medical device markets in China and Russia are expanding. Cosmetics climbed up 9.2 percent as more products were shipped to China and ASEAN. Those that drew attention were perfumes, face washes, makeup foundations, and deodorants. Agricultural and fisheries products went up 3.0 percent thanks to greater overseas demand for noodles and squids among many others.
Among major trade partners, exports to China slid 16.9 percent and those to the EU dropped 21.2 percent. Shipments to the Middle East, on the other hand, inched up 0.9 percent.
Imports slumped 14.6 percent to USD 41.4 billion,
compared to market forecasts of a 13.2 percent decline. That was the sixth straight month of year-on-year decrease in purchases.
Considering the first ten months of 2019, the trade surplus narrowed sharply to USD 34.1 billion from USD 60.8 billion in the corresponding period the prior year.