South Korea’s industrial output further weakened in December amid sluggish automaking and slowed for full 2017 against the previous year as factory activity except for chips and electronic component sites stayed subdued.
According to the country’s monthly and full-year industrial data released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday, seasonally adjusted mining and manufacturing output declined 0.5 percent in December from a month ago due largely to 11.4-percent plunge in automobile shipments.
Against a year-ago, factory output was down 6.0 percent.
Factory operation averaged at 70.4 percent, sharply reduced from 71.2 percent in the previous month. Inventory level gained 1.3 percent on month.
Service sector activity, an indicator for domestic demand, added just 0.2 percent against November.
Retail sales - a barometer for private consumption - slipped 4.0 percent on month, sharply reversing from 5.7 percent jump in November. The data has fluctuated to underscore shaky consumer sentiment.
Capital investment grew 8.9 percent on month due to a rise of 10 percent in machineries orders and a gain of 4.8 percent in investment in transportation equipments.
The sagging industrial data against best-ever monthly exports record in January kept the markets mixed.
The main Kospi closed Thursday 0.08 percent up at 2,568.54, and the won fell 4.0 to 1,071.9 against the U.S. dollar.
For full 2017 when the economy grew by 3.0 percent annualized rate, mining and manufacturing output rose 0.6 percent, slowing from 1.0 percent in 2016 when the economy managed a growth of 2.8 percent.
The weaker data again backs a feeble economy largely hinging on overseas demand in a few mainstays like semiconductors and petrochemicals.
Service sector output gained 2.5 percent, retreating from 3.0 percent in the previous year.
Factory operation rate averaged 71.9 percent in 2017, most idle after 67.6 in 1998 when the country was under international bailout following a liquidity crisis.
Output from shipyards nearly halved to 58.6 in 2017 from 107.1 in 2011. Output of automobile industry fell 2.7 percent with a 3.5 percent drop in exports from a year earlier as Korean makers struggled in major U.S. and Chinese markets.
Retail sales rose 2.7 percent against 2016, and capital investment rose 14.1 percent on year as chipmakers invested heavily on booming demand.
By Yoon Won-sup and Lee Ha-yeon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]