SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) — South Korean manufacturers’ business sentiment rose for the third straight month for April, but concerns about sluggish consumption remained amid the COVID-19 pandemic, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The business sentiment index (BSI) for local manufacturers came to 91 for April, up from 85 for March, according to the data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The index measures manufacturers’ outlook on business conditions in the following month. A reading below 100 means pessimists outnumber optimists.

South Korea’s exports rose 12.5 percent on-year in the first 20 days of March on robust shipments of chips and autos amid the pandemic.

This file photo, taken on March 2, 2021, shows ships carrying containers docking at a port in South Korea’s southeastern port city of Busan. (Yonhap)

The country’s outbound shipments stood at US$33.9 billion in the March 1-20 period, compared with $30.1 billion a year earlier.

Exports, which account for half of the nation’s economy, rose 9.5 percent in February from a year earlier to extend their gains for the fourth consecutive month.

A modest recovery in exports and investment has helped put South Korea’s economy on a growth track.

The BSI for conglomerates came to 99 for April, up from 94 for March, while that of smaller companies reached 82, up from 74.

Meanwhile, the BSI of non-manufacturing businesses came to 78 for April, up from 73 for this month, the BOK said.