South Korea’s current account balance in the first quarter showed its smallest surplus in nearly seven years amid dwindling mainstay exports and slowdown in the country’s biggest market China.
Korea’s current account surplus for the quarter ended March stopped at $11.3 billion, the smallest since the second quarter of 2012 when it totaled $10.9 billion, according to preliminary data from the Bank of Korea on Wednesday.
The goods account surplus in the first quarter slipped to a five-year low of $19.6 billion as exports slumped 7.6 percent on year to $137.5 billion. The last time Korea’s trade-reliant economy saw a decline in outbound shipments was in the third quarter of 2016 when they fell 3.9 percent. The global economy has wobbled since the beginning of the year amid rising trade tensions between the United States and China, hurting exports of Korea’s mainstays such as chips and petrochemical products. Its exports have also suffered from the cooling demand from China, its largest trading partner.
Korea’s service account deficit in the first quarter narrowed to $7.66 billion from $9.31 billion a year earlier. The deficit in the travel account shrank to $3.57 billion from $4.96 billion over the same period, with the transportation account deficit reduced significantly to $900 million from $1.55 billion.
The current account surplus for the month of March came to $4.82 billion, extending its surplus streak for the 83rd month in a row. But the amount fell short of the year-ago period when it stood at $5.1 billion won. This was due to the 9.4 percent on-year drop in exports, which dragged down the goods account surplus from $9.41 billion to $8.47 billion.
The service account sank deeper into the red over the same period, with the deficit widening from $2.26 billion to $2.34 billion. While the travel account saw its deficit trimmed from $1.34 billion to $560 million, the deficit in the intellectual property account surged from $340 million to $950 million.
By Lee Yu-sup and Kim Hyo-jin
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