South Korea's monthly current account surplus narrowed in March from a year earlier amid slowing exports, central bank data showed Wednesday.
The country's current account surplus came to US$4.8 billion in March, down from $5.1 billion a year earlier, according to the preliminary data from the Bank of Korea (BOK). But the surplus widened from the previous month's $3.6 billion.
The current account has been in the black for 83 straight months.
In the first three months of this year, the country's current account surplus stood at $11.2 billion, marking the smallest surplus on a quarterly basis since the second quarter of 2012, the data showed.
The country's outbound shipments fell 3.9 percent on-year to $137.5 billion in the January-March period, marking the first quarterly decline in exports since the third quarter of 2016.
South Korea's exports also fell 2 percent in April from a year earlier, extending their on-year fall for the fifth consecutive month due to a drawn-out slump in chips and weak demand from China.
The goods account surplus fell to $8.4 billion in March from $9.4 billion a year earlier due to a drop in exports amid slowing demand for semiconductors and petrochemical goods.
The BOK attributed a decline in the goods account to a fall in world trade volumes, weaker chip prices and China's economic slowdown.
The services account deficit slightly widened to $2.3 billion from a deficit of $2.2 billion a year earlier.
"Despite a steady rise in the travel account, the services account deficit widened due to a deficit in the intellectual property account," the BOK said.
The primary income account deficit narrowed to $740 million in March from $1.3 billion a year ago, in line with a decrease in the payment of dividends, the BOK said.
Park Yang-soo, director of the economic statistics bureau at the BOK, said there is a possibility that South Korea may report a current account deficit in April due to a rise in dividend transfers by foreign investors.
However, it is hard to predict whether the current account balance will be in the red in April as the services account is likely to improve in the month, Park said. (Yonhap)