By Dahee Kim and Cynthia Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea exports likely rose for a 14th straight month in December, wrapping up the year with an upbeat tone as global demand for memory chips and petroleum goods from Asia’s third biggest exporter continued.
In a Reuters poll, 10 economists saw exports expanding 10.3 percent from a year earlier, picking up some pace after November’s 9.5 percent gain.
“Overseas sales will continue to speed up this month on strong global demand on memory chips, petroleum goods and ships,” said Kim Doo-un, an economist at Hana Financial Investment.
He said exports “are likely to maintain current robust growth in 2018, though some downside risks remain” such as possible revision of Seoul’s free trade pact with the United States and appreciation of South Korean won.
South Korea’s exports from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20 soared 16.4 percent from a year earlier, while imports jumped 19.5 percent over the same period, preliminary data from the government showed.
The poll’s median forecast for imports was a rise of 12.1 percent in December, a shade less than the annual increase of 12.7 percent rise a month earlier.
Tuesday’s poll also showed economists expect South Korea’s industrial production rose 1.2 percent in November from a month earlier, rebounding sharply from October’s decline of 1.1 percent.
“October’s weak industrial production was mainly due to fewer number of working days as the nation celebrated Chuseok holiday, which means November’s reading will definitely show a rebound,” said Kwon Ah-min, an economist at Dongbu Securities.
In the poll, the annual inflation rate for December was seen at 1.5 percent, slightly up from 1.3 percent the previous month.
Industrial output is due on Thursday and inflation data on Friday, while December trade data will be released on Jan. 1.
(Reporting by Dahee Kim, Cynthia Kim; Heekyong Yang, Yuna Park and Haejin Choi; Editing by Richard Borsuk)