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S.Korea Feb exports extend growth on strong chip, auto demand

(Adds background, details)

* Feb exports +9.5% y/y, imports +13.9% y/y

* Feb average daily exports +26.4% y/y, sharpest in 40 months

* Shipments of chips, cars and petrochemical products surge

By Joori Roh

SEOUL, March 1 (Reuters) – South Korea’s exports expanded for a fourth straight month in February on continued growth in memory chip and car sales, underpinning the trade-led recovery in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Exports jumped 9.5% from a year earlier to $44.81 billion in February, government data showed on Monday, slower than 11.4% growth in January but matching the 9.5% increase forecast by 12 economists in a Reuters survey.

Average daily exports, however, surged 26.4% year-on-year, the sharpest in over three years, when eliminating the impact from a three-day drop in working days due to the nation’s Lunar New Year holidays.

South Korea’s monthly trade data, the first to be released among major exporting economies, is considered a bellwether for global trade.

Shipments of semiconductors, the country’s top export, jumped 13.2% year-on-year and for an eighth consecutive month, while those of cars, petrochemicals and bio-health products surged 47%, 22.4% and 62.5%, respectively.

Of the nation’s 15 major export items, shipments of 11 items increased last month.

By destination, those to China, the United States and the European Union soared 26.5%, 7.9% and 48.2% each.

Meanwhile, data also showed imports grew 13.9% to $42.11 billion, beating forecasts for a 12.3% jump.

The trade surplus shrank to $2.71 billion from $3.76 billion a month ago.

South Korea’s financial markets are closed on Monday due to a public holiday and will resume trade on Tuesday. (Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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