UPDATE 1-S.Korea Q4 GDP beats expectations, sets scene for strong 2021

26 Jan 2021 / 07:23 H.

    (Adds details, background)

    * S.Korea Q4 GDP s/adj +1.1% Q/Q (Reuters poll +0.7% Q/Q) -BOK

    * S.Korea Q4 private consumption -1.7% Q/Q

    * S.Korea Q4 exports +5.2%, construction investment +6.5% Q/Q

    By Cynthia Kim

    SEOUL, Jan 26 (Reuters) - South Korea's economy grew at a faster-than-expected pace in the fourth quarter as it ended the coronavirus-stricken year solidly poised for a recovery in 2021 thanks to surging exports.

    Gross domestic product (GDP) grew a seasonally adjusted 1.1% in the December quarter from the September quarter, the Bank of Korea said on Tuesday, faster than the median estimate of 0.7% in a Reuters poll and following a 2.1% expansion in the September quarter.

    That limited the contraction over the whole year to 1.0%, which is likely to be the smallest GDP slump among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in the year of the pandemic that killed more than 2 million worldwide.

    South Korea's economy has been rebounding sharply since the second quarter when it experienced its sharpest downturn since 2008. But the recovery from the virus-hit downturn has been uneven.

    December exports surged 12.6% from a year earlier, the sharpest expansion in 26 months.

    But the number of jobs plunged at the sharpest rate in over two decades in December, a sign the recovery is still fragile amid the third wave of the coronavirus now sweeping the country.

    Data on Tuesday showed exports jumped 5.2% in the fourth quarter from three months earlier, which helped offset a 1.7% decline in private consumption because of toughened COVID-19 social-distancing measures since late last year.

    Construction investment jumped 6.5% from a quarter earlier, logging the best performance since the fourth quarter of 2019.

    On a year-on-year basis, the economy shrank 1.4% in the fourth quarter, less than the 1.7% decline forecast in the poll.

    (Reporting by Cynthia Kim; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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