South Korean Exports a Harbinger of Pain South Korean Exports a Harbinger of Pain South Korean Exports a Harbinger of Pain

South Korean Exports a Harbinger of Pain

Equities 5 minutes to read

Summary:  Delivering a blow to those still waiting for the 2H recovery, data released today showed South Korean exports heading toward their lowest level since the financial crisis of 2008. This could be a harbinger of pain ahead in Asian trade data and the SOX index which is hovering around all time highs.

South Korean exports of information and communication technology products have been falling for 10 straight months and it looks like September will be added to that streak.

South Korea’s trade data is released before other global trade data so is a good indicator of more negativity across Asian export data to unfold throughout September, as the lagged effect of September’s tariff hikes takes effect and the global economy has continued to slow, buffeted by cyclical headwinds and a fragile geopolitical backdrop.

But more worryingly South Korean data is typically a good lead on the global economy and global demand given that its industries are heavily integrated within the global supply chain and highly cyclical. It is for this reason that South Korean data is often used in global macro leading indicator models and expectations of future earnings growth and world trade growth, so this latest round of ugly trade data tempers any optimistic notion of a recovery in tech demand and global demand being around the corner. So, this data spells more trouble ahead.

For the first 20 days of September:

  • exports down 21.8% y/y
  • imports down 11.1% y/y
  • exports to China down 29.8%
  • exports Semiconductors down -39.8%

South Korea is distinctly vulnerable as the trade war, China slowdown, downturn in the electronic cycle and dispute with Japan weigh on economic activity along with the broad-based slowdown visible across the whole of Asia. But also, South Korea is heavily reliant on USD funding in a world where dollar liquidity is tight which only exacerbates the other issues, meaning South Korean GDP growth will remain hampered and the KRW pressured.

The prolonged weakness in chip demand and cyclical downturn in electronics, evidenced by exports of Semiconductors continuing to fall sliding 40% Y/Y for the first 20 days of September, is a stark divergence with the Philadelphia Stock Exchange Semiconductor Index (SOX) hovering around all-time highs. Particularly once you factor in the continued pressure on DRAM prices from July this year. Many companies in the market have been stockpiling inventory and holding off production cuts in the hope that this current slowdown is temporary, but this data doesn’t back that up and in that respect, it looks like the SOX index is hardly reflecting reality.


The Saxo Bank Group entities each provide execution-only service and access to Analysis permitting a person to view and/or use content available on or via the website. This content is not intended to and does not change or expand on the execution-only service. Such access and use are at all times subject to (i) The Terms of Use; (ii) Full Disclaimer; (iii) The Risk Warning; (iv) the Rules of Engagement and (v) Notices applying to Saxo News & Research and/or its content in addition (where relevant) to the terms governing the use of hyperlinks on the website of a member of the Saxo Bank Group by which access to Saxo News & Research is gained. Such content is therefore provided as no more than information. In particular no advice is intended to be provided or to be relied on as provided nor endorsed by any Saxo Bank Group entity; nor is it to be construed as solicitation or an incentive provided to subscribe for or sell or purchase any financial instrument. All trading or investments you make must be pursuant to your own unprompted and informed self-directed decision. As such no Saxo Bank Group entity will have or be liable for any losses that you may sustain as a result of any investment decision made in reliance on information which is available on Saxo News & Research or as a result of the use of the Saxo News & Research. Orders given and trades effected are deemed intended to be given or effected for the account of the customer with the Saxo Bank Group entity operating in the jurisdiction in which the customer resides and/or with whom the customer opened and maintains his/her trading account. Saxo News & Research does not contain (and should not be construed as containing) financial, investment, tax or trading advice or advice of any sort offered, recommended or endorsed by Saxo Bank Group and should not be construed as a record of our trading prices, or as an offer, incentive or solicitation for the subscription, sale or purchase in any financial instrument. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, would be considered as a marketing communication under relevant laws.

Please read our disclaimers:
- Notification on Non-Independent Investment Research (
- Full disclaimer (

Saxo Markets
40 Bank Street, 26th floor
E14 5DA
United Kingdom

Contact Saxo

Select region

United Kingdom
United Kingdom

Trade Responsibly
All trading carries risk. To help you understand the risks involved we have put together a series of Key Information Documents (KIDs) highlighting the risks and rewards related to each product. Read more
Additional Key Information Documents are available in our trading platform.

Saxo Markets is a registered Trading Name of Saxo Capital Markets UK Ltd (‘SCML’). SCML is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, Firm Reference Number 551422. Registered address: 26th Floor, 40 Bank Street, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DA. Company number 7413871. Registered in England & Wales.

This website, including the information and materials contained in it, are not directed at, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in the United States, Belgium or any other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to applicable law or regulation.

It is important that you understand that with investments, your capital is at risk. Past performance is not a guide to future performance. It is your responsibility to ensure that you make an informed decision about whether or not to invest with us. If you are still unsure if investing is right for you, please seek independent advice. Saxo Markets assumes no liability for any loss sustained from trading in accordance with a recommendation.

Apple, iPad and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries. App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

©   since 1992