SEOUL: South Korea's export recovery likely accelerated in December thanks to strong chip demand, though the coronavirus pandemic continued to add pressure on domestic consumption, a Reuters poll showed on Tuesday.
Outbound shipments in the final month of 2020 were seen increasing 5.6% from a year earlier, according to a median estimate of 12 economists, the fastest growth in three months and better than a 4.1% rise in November.
"The semiconductor-led exports recovery is seen continuing. The upward trend in exports will continue through to second-quarter in 2021, as the global economy and trade volume return to normalcy in the help of vaccine supplies," said Chun Kyu-yeon, economist at Hana Financial Investment.
Preliminary data showed overseas sales of chips, the country's largest export item, surged 26.4% during Dec. 1-20.
Imports were expected to have shrunk 2.6% in December, extending the decline to a third month as a third wave of coronavirus infections, the country's worst, sapped domestic demand.
Economists, however, see the exports recovery remaining resilient despite worries over the local coronavirus situation.
"Though the global resurgence in COVID-19 and related lockdown measures will partially have negative impact on exports, US stimulus and China's efforts to boost its domestic consumption will support the exports recovery," said Park Sang-hyun, chief economist at Hi Investment & Securities.
Trade data for December and the whole of 2020 will be out on Jan. 1 at 9 a.m. (0000 GMT Jan. 1).
Meanwhile, 11 economists predicted industrial output in November would expand by a seasonally adjusted 0.8% month-on-month, after shrinking 1.2% in October.
Twelve economists also estimated consumer prices in December would rise a median 0.6% year-on-year, steady from the previous month.