Seoul: South Korean exports fell slightly in December from a year earlier, official data showed on Tuesday, missing even the most pessimistic forecast from a Reuters survey and providing fresh evidence of a cooling global economy.

Although all 10 economists in the Reuters survey had forecast a rise in exports, some said the data was not too surprising given the tariff war between the United States and China had clouded the outlook for global trade and signs of a slowdown in US economic growth.

South Korea’s trade ministry said exports in December fell 1.2 per cent from the same month in 2017, hit by falling memory-chip and oil prices and cooling demand from China.

Imports grew just 0.9 per cent.

Economists had forecast a median 3.3 per cent gain in overseas shipments by Asia’s fourth-largest economy and a 4.2 per cent rise in imports.

South Korea is the world’s leading exporter of computer chips, ships, cars and petroleum products.