South Korea’s exports plummeted in January, the trade ministry said today (Feb. 1) to $36.7 billion, an 18.5% drop from a year ago. That’s the steepest fall since August 2009, and marks the 13th month in a row that exports from the Asian manufacturing powerhouse have fallen.
The sharp fall took markets and investors by surprise, with a drop of about 12% expected.
China accounts for a quarter of South Korea’s exports, and the slowdown there is a key factor, the trade ministry said, as is a drop in demand for passenger and cargo ships, which are the country’s fourth-largest export. Refined petroleum is also a key export, and a drop in oil prices is bringing down the value of that product.