Upbeat economic export data suggests an economic spring may be coming to Seoul. Photo: Tom Coyner

Amid virus-driven market misery, some surprising good news surfaced on Wednesday when data showed South Korea’s exports soared 21.9% for the first 10 days of March, year-on-year.

South Korea is always on the radar screens of market watchers, as it is usually the first trade-centric economy to release data, making it a weather vane of global trade winds.

Wednesday’s data was released by the Korean Customs Service and reported by Yonhap news agency. KSC noted, however, that there had been seven working days in the 10-day period of this year, compared to six in the corresponding period last year.

The export data follows upbeat news from the month prior. Until the beginning of 2020, South Korean exports had been falling for 14 consecutive months, but in February, they rose 4.5%, year-on-year. Notably, chip exports increased 9.4% , year-on-year, over the month, according to Bloomberg.

The grim numbers from last year were largely a result of the trade war between China and Washington – Korea’s No 1 and No 2 export destinations, respectively – and also a long, lingering downturn in the global semiconductor sector. Market watchers had been hoping for a turnaround in chips since the second half of 2019.

In the first two weeks of March, exports to China rose 14.8% year-on-year, while shipments to the United States surged by 45.4%. Leading the charge, Yonhap reported, were petrochemicals, mobile devices and automobiles. Ships and displays, however, were down.