South Korea recorded its longest string of trade deficits since the Asian financial crisis in 1997 as elevated energy and commodity prices resulted in imports continuing to outpace exports.

The deficit was $3.77 billion in September, the sixth straight monthly shortfall, according to data released Saturday by the trade ministry. Imports climbed 18.6% from a year earlier, while exports advanced 2.8%.

Export-dependent nations are seeing persistent trade shortfalls this year as Russia’s war on Ukraine leads to higher energy and commodity prices and exacerbates inflationary pressures. Korea’s deficit hit a record in August and its weakening currency further increases troubles for manufacturers.

Korea produces key items such as chips, cars, displays and smartphones, and its shipments help paint a picture of demand at a time when concerns are mounting about a global recession.

Inflation remains elevated worldwide, prompting central banks to tighten policy rates irrespective of the economic costs. Korean chipmakers in August slashed production for the first time in more than four years to brace for a deterioration in demand.

Resilient export growth has been a major factor bolstering the confidence of Bank of Korea board members to keep raising rates. Governor Rhee Chang-yong is keeping the door open for another hike at an Oct. 12 meeting.

The September trade data showed:

  • Daily average shipments that rule out calendar differences increased 0.4%, according to separate customs office data
  • Exports to China fell 6.5% and those to the European Union were down 0.7%. Shipments to the U.S. gained 16%, while those to Japan increased 2.5%
  • Total semiconductor shipments decreased 5.7% in September from a year earlier
  • Total automobile shipments advanced 34.7%, while exports of rechargeable batteries rose 30.4%