South Korea May exports fall most in 8 months on calendar effects

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean exports fell 0.9 per cent in May from a year earlier, data showed on Sunday, marking the worst decline in eight months and missing the market's consensus view mainly due to fewer working days.

Exports totalled US$47.88 billion in May while imports edged up by 0.3 per cent from a year earlier to reach US$42.53 billion, data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed. It resulted in a trade surplus of US$5.35 billion.

The median forecast from a Reuters survey of 16 economists was for South Korean exports to grow 1.2 per cent in May from a year before, but five of them had predicted losses. Imports were seen up a median 4.2 per cent.

It was the first decline in exports since January this year and the sharpest since September last year.

South Korea is the first major exporting economy to report foreign trade data each month, providing an early glimpse into the health of the global economy. It is the fourth-largest economy in Asia and the seventh-largest exporter in the world.

There were 1.5 fewer working days in May this year than last year. Thomson Reuters calculation shows the average export value per working day improved in May to US$2.23 billion from US$2.10 billion in April.

The ministry is due to release more details later in the day, including break-down figures for data by key markets and industries.

China is South Korea's biggest export market, taking around one-quarter of total exports, followed by the United States and the European Union.