SEOUL, May 31 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's industrial output grew 0.5 percent last month from a year earlier due to an expansion in the service industry that offset sluggish production in the manufacturing and construction sectors, a government report showed Thursday.
All industry production index, which gauges industrial activities as a whole, stood at 129.4 in April, up 0.5 percent from a year earlier, according to Statistics Korea. From a month before, the index was unchanged.
The on-year growth was up from a 0.4 percent gain tallied in March. Slow production in the manufacturing and construction industries was offset by output growth in the service sector.
Output in the mining, manufacturing and electricity & gas sectors remained flat in April from a year before, down from a 0.7 percent on-year expansion tallied in March. From a month before, the production increased 0.9 percent last month, a turnaround from a 2.9 percent on-month contraction.
The April on-year growth declined from the previous month, and the on-year expansion failed to offset the previous month's 2.9 percent contraction. It was mainly attributed to lingering external uncertainties. Europe's debt crisis and slowing import growth in China, South Korea's largest trading partner, weighed on the country's exports, leading to the weakening of industrial activities, market watchers said.
"South Korea's industrial sector has slowed since the beginning of 2012. Export-led production has eased, with demand from China looking particularly weak in recent months," Moody's Analytics said in a report before the data release.
Production in the manufacturing sector, which makes up around half of all industrial output, was unchanged in April from the same month of last year, down from a 0.7 percent on-year growth registered for the previous month. From a month before, the output expanded 0.9 percent in April, a turnaround from a 3.1 percent retreat in March.
Weak demand for audio & video equipment, machinery and non- metallic minerals contributed to the slower on-year growth, but demand for chips, parts and automobiles was strong, the statistical agency said.
Shipment in the manufacturers declined 1.1 percent on-year in April due to contraction in audio & video equipment and oil refining sectors, but inventory jumped 16.2 percent last month amid growth in chips, parts and food industries.
Local manufacturers operated at an average capacity of 79.3 percent last month, up 1.2 percentage points from the previous month. The factory utilization rate stood at 79.4 percent a year earlier.
Production in the service industry grew 1 percent on-year in April, but the figure was down from a 1.6 percent expansion in March. The report showed that upswings in health, social welfare, publication, broadcasting and information sectors offset downswings in transportation, real estate and rental service industries.
Output in the construction sector plunged 7.5 percent on-year in April, almost unchanged from a 7.6 percent on-year contraction tallied in the previous month. From a month earlier, the production tumbled 5.2 percent, worsening from a 1.4 percent on- month decline a month before.
The Asia's No.4 economy saw its retail sales grow 0.4 percent in April from a year earlier, up from a 0.1 percent rise in March. Outperformance in durable and non-durable goods offset underperformance in semi-durables such as clothes.
Retail sales grew 1 percent on-month last month, rebounding from a 2.6 percent on-month contraction a month before. Market watchers viewed the rebound as a jump from the March's delayed Lunar New Year effect.
Facility investment logged a growth of 5 percent in April from a year earlier due to rising investment in specialized machinery and metal industries. The figure was up from a 1.5 percent growth in March.
The value of construction completed at constant price sank 7.5 percent on-year in April, with the figure for construction orders received at current price contracting tumbling 4.4 percent over the same period.
The leading index of economic indicators, which gauges business activities around six months ahead, was unchanged at 99.8 in April from the previous month, but the coincident index, measuring current economic conditions, was down 0.2 points in April from a month before.