South Korean Jan exports disappoint; China a worry

SEOUL Sun Jan 31, 2010 11:50pm EST

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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean exports in January fell at the fastest monthly pace in a year, reinforcing investor fears that the recovery in demand is moderating and may be hit by China's crackdown on credit growth.

Asia's fourth-largest economy shipped an average of $1.38 billion worth of goods abroad every working day in January, down 8.6 percent from $1.51 billion in December. It was the sharpest monthly fall since January last year.

Exports to China for the first 20 days of January -- an indicator of monthly changes -- were about 6 percent higher than during the same period in December, Reuters calculations based on government data showed on Monday.

Analysts have said China's move to rein in credit growth would hurt exports to the neighbor, which absorbs more than a quarter of South Korea's exports. However, the 20-day data suggested exports have not yet taken hit from China's tightening.

"Lending controls in China and India may dampen export growth momentum, although the impact would not be severe," Goh You-sun, an economist at Daewoo Securities.

Total South Korean exports in January rose 47 percent from a year earlier, the ministry said, below market expectations in a Reuters poll for a 52 percent gain from the height of the worst global downturn in decades.

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