UPDATE 1-S.Korea April exports surge at sharpest pace in more than a decade

* April exports +41.1% y/y, sharpest since Jan 2011

* Imports +33.9% y/y

* Exports extend growth for a 6th straight month

* Shipments of chips, cars and petrochemical products surge (Writes through, adds details, background)

SEOUL, May 1 (Reuters) - South Korea’s exports expanded at its sharpest pace in more than a decade in April, boosted by those of semiconductors, cars and petrochemical products, highlighting a continued trade-led recovery in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

Exports surged 41.1% from a year earlier, trade ministry data showed on Saturday, marking the fastest growth since Jan 2011 and extending the expansion to a sixth month in a row.

That missed a 44.0% increase forecast by 14 economists in a Reuters poll, but was much sharper than a 16.5% growth in March.

The data was also supported by a low base in 2020 as exports plunged at their sharpest pace since the global financial crisis in April last year.

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

Outbound shipments of semiconductors, the country’s top export, jumped 30.2% year-on-year and for a 10th straight month, while those of cars and petrochemical products soared 73.4% and 82.6%, respectively.

All 15 major export items increased last month, with 13 of those growing at a double-digit rate.

By destination, exports to China, the United States and the European Union rose 31.7% and 43.0% and 43.0% each, while those to the other six major trading partners also increased.

Meanwhile, data showed imports grew 33.9%, beating forecasts for a 31.2% jump. That brought the trade surplus down to $0.39 billion from $4.13 billion a month ago.

“Both exports and imports rose more than 30% this month as domestic demand and strong exports boosted production and investment activities in businesses,” the trade ministry said in a statement.

The central bank sees a “mid-3%” growth “very possible” for this year, up from a previous projection of 3%. It will release the revised forecast later this month. (Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Stephen Coates)