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S.Korea's exports post longest monthly decline for 19 months

SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's July exports posted a longest monthly decline for 19 months in a row, boosting worries about recovery in the export-driven economy, a government report showed on Monday.

Exports, which account for about half of the export-driven economy, reached 41.04 billion U.S. dollars in July, down 10.2 percent from the same month of last year, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The falling pace of the country's exports accelerated from 2.7 percent in June to 10.2 percent in July, after slowing down from 11.1 percent in April to 5.9 percent in May.

It prolonged the period of the monthly export fall to 19 months in a row, the longest in its history. The previous longest exports reduction was 13 months from March 2001 to March 2002.

In July, business days reduced by 1.5 days compared with a year earlier, contributing to the export decline. A fall in ship deliveries also helped exports log a double-digit slide.

Excluding the one-off factors such as less business days, outbound shipments shed 1.6 percent in July from a year earlier, the lowest monthly slide in 2016, according to the trade ministry. Daily average exports dipped 4.4 percent in July compared with a year earlier.

Imports tumbled 14.0 percent from a year earlier to 33.25 billion dollars. Both exports and imports declined for 19 months in a row.

The faster fall in imports than exports sent the July trade surplus to 7.79 billion dollars. The trade balance stayed in black for 54 straight months since February 2012.

In terms of volume, exports slipped 1.6 percent, with the export unit price retreating 8.8 percent in July from a year ago.

By item, display panel shipments dropped 19.2 percent in July, better than a 25.2 percent fall tallied in June. The falling pace of oil product exports slowed from 27.2 percent in June to 9.4 percent in July, while the figure for general machinery slowed from 4.6 percent to 3.7 percent.

The display panel exports improved on the back of a slower fall in export prices, while demand for gasoline increased last month, helping enhance oil product exports, the ministry said.

Ship exports, however, plunged 42.5 percent on delayed delivery of some orders. Auto exports declined 14.6 percent as workers of Hyundai Motor, the country's No.1 carmaker, went on a strike. Steel exports slumped 11.1 percent amid global weak demand.

By region, exports to China, South Korea's largest export destination, sank 9.3 percent last month from a year ago, continuing their losing streak since the beginning of the year.

Exports to Vietnam increased 7.6 percent, keeping an upward trend for the sixth consecutive month. Those to the European Union (EU) and Japan declined 4.3 percent and 2.1 percent each, but those were a slowing fall from the previous month.

Exports to India tumbled 10.1 percent, and those to the United States plunged 14.3 percent in July, worse than a 7.0 percent reduction in June.

The trade ministry said it is hard to expect an export recovery in the foreseeable future due to the continued downturn in emerging economies and the remaining uncertainties such as Brexit, or British referendum to leave the EU.

Imports of raw materials reduced 12.5 percent in July on the back of lower commodity prices. Capital goods import fell 4.2 percent, but consumer goods imports increased 5.4 percent.

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