By Park Hyong-ki
Some global investment banks have lowered the country's growth forecast for this year further amid falling exports, according to the Korea Center for International Finance, Sunday.
Credit Suisse, Barclays and UBS have revised down their Korean projections by 0.1 percentage point as they expect sluggish exports and corporate investment will weigh on the economy.
The Swiss bank forecasts Korea to grow 2.4 percent this year, the same as Citibank's 2.4 percent, the lowest among nine investment banks.
UBS and Barclays forecast the economy to grow 2.5 percent.
The average growth projection among the nine banks stood at 2.5 percent for 2019, down from 2.6 percent projected in November 2018.
This is lower than the Bank of Korea and the Korea Development Institute's forecast of 2.6 percent.
The downward revision comes as the volume of the country's outbound goods has contracted for two consecutive months in December 2018 and January 2019.
Exports fell 1.2 percent in December from the same period a year ago, and dropped a further 5.8 percent in January.
This was due to semiconductor exports falling more than 23 percent in January, negatively affecting the overall data, given that they accounted for 20 percent of total annual shipments. In 2018, exports of chips increased nearly 30 percent.
Also, exports are highly likely to continue to slide in February given the Lunar New Year holiday, according to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
U.S. protectionism, and China's slowdown and industrial policies aimed at strengthening its homemade technologies such as semiconductors and robotics have weighed on Korea's tech shipments, according to analysts.
"Exports will remain weak in February due to decreasing prices of memory chips and crude oil. Also, the Chinese slowdown will negatively affect Korea's exports," said Moon Jeong-hee, an analyst at KB Securities.
The analyst forecast the prices of oil and chips will start to rebound in the latter half of the year.
Also, China's recent monetary and fiscal measures to stabilize growth will likely become effective beginning in the second half, Moon added.
The Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy are expected to announce measures to help revitalize exports of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) later this month.