UPDATE 1-S.Korea's July 1-20 exports fall further on slow demand recovery

(Adds details, economist comment)

By Joori Roh

SEOUL, July 21 (Reuters) – South Korean exports extended their contraction during the first 20 days of July and by a larger percentage than in June as a protracted coronavirus lockdown and delay in economic reopening across the world continued to upend global demand.

The country’s overseas sales during July 1-20 dropped 12.8% from the same period a year earlier, while imports slid 13.7%, Korea Customs Service data showed on Tuesday. Exports fell 7.7% during June 1-20, while imports slumped 11.4%.

Average exports per working day tumbled 7.1% during the period, much milder than a 16.2% plunge in the same period last month.

“Although a quick recovery looks unlikely, the export decline is expected to slow in the second half as countries resume economic activities,” said Oh Chang-sob, economist at Hyundai Motor Securities.

“There may be some economic constraints due to continued lockdown, but a complete lockdown seen during the first half is unlikely to happen during the rest of the year,” Oh added.

Meanwhile by product, shipments of semiconductors, the country’s top exporting item, fell 1.7%, while those of cars and petroleum products plunged 14.0% and 41.6%, respectively. Those of computer-related devices, however, surged 56.9%.

Exports to China, South Korea’s largest trading partner which takes in a quarter of total shipments, slid 0.8% on year in the 20-day period. Those to the United States and the European Union dropped 2.4% and 11.9% each.

“Trade conditions are improving on better demand from developed economies in addition to a recovery in demand from China,” said Lee Seung-hoon, economist at Meritz Securities, who also sees export decline slowing in the second half of the year.

Outbound shipments fell 11.3% overall during the first half of the year, after dropping 12.0% in the preceding six months. (Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Christopher Cushing)

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