SEOUL (REUTERS) – South Korean exports contracted by a smaller percentage in the first 20 days of August than in July, boosting hopes for a trade-led recovery even as threats loom from a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in the capital Seoul.

Exports contracted 7 per cent from a year earlier in the period, versus a drop of 13 per cent in the comparable period in July, data from the Korea Customs Service showed on Friday (Aug 21).

Imports declined 12.8 per cent on year in the first 20 days of August.

Average exports per working day declined 3.7 per cent during the period, an improvement after about a 7 per cent drop in the same period last month.

Friday’s data indicates South Korean exports are set to fall for a sixth month in August but at a slower pace, a further sign that Asia’s fourth-largest economy may bottom out despite threats from a resurgence of the novel coronavirus.

Overseas sales to China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner, fell 0.2 per cent while that to the United States rose 6.2 per cent.

By item, exports of semiconductors increased 2.9 per cent in the first 20 days of August, while that for petrochemical products and cars dropped by 39.0 per cent and 10.1 per cent, respectively.

Threats loom. Authorities on Thursday said coronavirus infections are back “in full swing” and spreading nationwide after members of a church attended a political demonstration, threatening one of the world’s Covid-19 success stories.

As of Thursday, South Korea has reported 16,346 cases of the new coronavirus with 307 Covid-19 deaths.

Full month trade data for August will be released on Sept 1.

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