S. Korea industrial output falls for third month



South Korea's industrial output fell for a third straight month in March as carmakers struggled in the face of a weaker yen, which benefits their Japanese rivals, official data showed.

Production in the mining, manufacturing, gas and electricity industries dropped 2.6 percent from February and was down 3.0 percent from a year earlier, state-run Statistics Korea said.

Output had already fallen 0.9 percent month-on-month in February following a 1.2 percent contraction in January, according to revised figures.

Manufacturing production slid 2.5 percent in March month-on-month and 3.0 percent from a year earlier, dragged down by a slowdown in industries including automobiles and telecom devices.

Car production slumped 9.8 percent from February as manufacturers such as Hyundai (KSE: 011760.KS - news) were squeezed by a weaker Japanese yen that has hurt their price competitiveness in global markets.

Production of memory chips -- another key export of Asia's fourth-largest economy -- gained 1.3 percent from a month earlier and 5.9 percent year-on-year.

South Korea's export-reliant economy expanded 2.0 percent in 2012 -- the slowest growth in three years, with exports hit by slowing overseas demand in key markets and the impact of the softer yen.

Earlier this month, the central bank lowered its growth forecast for this year to 2.6 percent, just three months after slashing it from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent.