South Korea exports fall for 11th month, but at milder pace

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Cranes are seen at Pyeongtaek port in Pyeongtaek

Cranes are seen at Pyeongtaek port in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, July 9, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji Acquire Licensing Rights

SEOUL, Sept 1 (Reuters) - South Korean exports fell for an 11th consecutive month in August versus a year earlier, but the decline was milder than the previous month as well as market expectations.

Overseas sales from Asia's fourth-largest economy fell 8.4% year-on-year to $51.87 billion in August, trade data showed on Friday, after a 16.4% drop in July - the worst in six months.

The August figure was better than the median forecast for an 11.6% decline in a Reuters survey of economists, beating all but one of 22 estimates.

The decline in China-bound exports softened to 20% from 25% the previous month, while shipments to the United States rose 2% after four months of decline. Those to the European Union also swung back to positive with a 3% rise.

Exports of semiconductors fell 21%, milder than the 34% fall of the previous month, and petrochemical products lost 12%. However, automobiles rose 29% and ships jumped 35%.

It was the 11th consecutive month South Korea's exports fell on an annual basis, the longest period since January 2020. The government expects exports to swing to growth from October.

"Despite the seasonal factor of summer vacations, the trade balance remained in surplus on robust exports of major products, such as automobiles and machineries, and an improvement in semiconductor exports," Trade Minister Lee Chang-yang said.

Imports fell 22.8% to $51 billion, after a 25.4% drop the month before. Economists had expected a 23.2% decline.

As a result, South Korea posted a trade surplus of $0.87 billion in August - after a surplus of $1.65 billion in July and $1.15 billion in June - in contrast to economists' predictions for a deficit.

Reporting by Jihoon Lee; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Christopher Cushing

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