(Bloomberg) -- The slump in South Korean exports eased further in September in a positive sign for an economy that depends heavily on trade.

Shipments adjusted for working-day differences decreased 2.1% from a year earlier, the customs office said Sunday. Headline exports fell 4.4% in September, compared with a 8.3% drop in the previous month. Economists had forecast a 9.3% decline. 

Overall imports fell 16.5%, resulting in a trade surplus of $3.7 billion.

Korean exports began to sink late last year as semiconductor prices slid and demand from China weakened. Higher energy costs and interest rates have also weighed on the global demand that South Korea depends on to power its economy. Exports to US increased 9% in September, while those to China gained for a second month. 

South Korea is one of the world’s largest exporters, with its manufacturers embedded in a wide swath of global supply chains. Its exposure to global trade makes the nation a useful indicator for the health of the world economy.

Policy makers have voiced hopes exports would return to growth by the end of 2023, with Finance Minister Choo Kyung-Ho saying last week shipments may turn positive in October. The latest breakdown on technology exports, which account for roughly a third of overall shipments, shows demand is starting to bounce back from a trough at the start of 2023.

The World Trade Organization said in August that global merchandise trade volumes turned up in the second quarter after two periods of decline, although uncertainties continue to cloud the outlook.

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