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SEJONG, Oct. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's trade surplus widened from a year earlier last month despite a slight drop in exports as its imports shrank at a faster rate, the government said Tuesday.
In September, the country's exports dropped 1.5 percent from the same month last year to US$44.74 billion, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
Its imports dropped 3.6 percent on-year to about $41.03 billion with its trade surplus coming to $3.71 billion.
The trade surplus for September compares with a surplus of $3.07 billion in September 2012. It, however, marks a drop from a surplus of $4.85 billion posted in August.
The ministry attributed the drop in both exports and imports to a decline in the number of working days in September due to the three-day Chuseok holiday, the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving.
"Both exports and imports shrank slightly from a year earlier due to a drop in the number of working days (by two days), but the country posted a trade surplus for the 20th consecutive month," it said in a press release.
The ministry said the daily average of the country's exports reached a record high of $2.24 billion with its total exports in the July-September period growing 2.9 percent on-year.
The country's exports of vessels jumped 59.7 percent on-year to $2.61 billion with outbound shipments of semiconductors also surging 21.4 percent to $5.42 billion.
The ministry said the increase in shipments of semiconductors was largely prompted by a significant rise in prices, which more than doubled to $1.83 for each 2-gigabyte dynamic random access memory chip from $0.85 in September 2012.
Shipments of automobiles and petroleum products, on the other hand, plunged 11.9 percent and 13 percent on-year, respectively, with those of steel products and liquid crystal display (LCD) panels also slumping 16.3 percent and 19.8 percent.
By nation, the country's exports to the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gained 5 percent on-year with shipments to Latin American countries also growing 4.7 percent.
Shipments to China gained only 1.4 percent on-year while those to the United States slipped 0.7 percent.
Imports dropped as the country's purchase of raw materials shrank 2.7 percent on-year with its purchase of consumer goods plunging 19.2 percent.
The country's imports of energy also dropped significantly to some $13.8 billion, down 10.3 percent from $15.38 billion in the same month last year, as its imports of both oil and coal plunged 10.5 percent and 27.3 percent on-year, respectively, according to the ministry.
The ministry forecast the country's exports will continue growing in the remainder of the year.
"We expect our exports to maintain an upward trend in the fourth quarter on growing shipments of key export items, such as semiconductors, ships and mobile communication devices," it said.
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