South Korea posted a merchandise trade surplus of $2.4 billion in May, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said on Friday.
That beat forecasts for a surplus of $1.59 billion after showing a surplus of $2.2 billion in April.
Exports eased 0.4 percent on year to $47.2 billion, shrinking for the third straight month, the data showed. Forecasts had suggested an increase of 0.8 percent following the 4.7 percent contraction in the previous month.
Exports of ships shed 17.4 percent, while exports of mobile communication equipment plummeted 35.7 percent and petrochemicals dropped 17.1 percent.
"The slight decrease in exports was caused by mounting global economic uncertainties that have hurt trade across the board," the ministry said in a statement accompanying the data.
Imports fell an annual 1.2 percent to $44.8 billion versus expectations for a gain of 0.7 percent following the 0.2 percent decline a month earlier.
Imports of crude oil climbed 18.2 percent and natural gas surged 22.4 percent on year.
Through the first five months of the year, South Korea's exports reached $228.21 billion, for a gain of 0.6 percent on year. Imports added 4.1 percent to $222.19 billion for a combined trade surplus of $6.02 billion.
Also on Friday, the Bank of Korea said that consumer prices in South Korea were higher by 2.5 percent on year in May - in line with expectations and unchanged from the 20-month low reading in April.
CPI continues to reside near the lower end of the central bank's target range of 2 to 4 percent. Bank of Korea expected inflation to come in at 3.2 percent for 2012.
On a monthly basis, inflation was up 0.2 percent after April's flat reading.
Core CPI, which strips out the volatile costs of food, was up 1.6 percent on year and 0.2 percent on month.
Through the first five months of the year, inflation has averaged 2.8 percent versus 3.8 percent for the same period last year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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