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South Korean manufacturers’ market morale grew for the second straight month in March, but fears about weak demand prevailed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, central bank data showed Wednesday.

The Market Sentiment Index (BSI) for local producers came to 85 in March, up from 81 in February, according to data from the Bank of Korea (BOK).

The index tests the manufacturer’s view on the next month’s market conditions. Reading below 100 means that the pessimists outnumber the optimists.

In the first 20 days of February, South Korea’s exports rose by 16.7% year-on-year to solid shipments of chips and vehicles.

The country’s outbound shipments amounted to $30.4 billion in the 1-20 February period, compared to $26 billion a year earlier.

A moderate rebound in exports and investment has helped bring the South Korean economy on a development trajectory.

The BSI for conglomerates came to 94 for March, up from 89 for February, while the BSI for smaller firms hit 74, up from 73.

Meanwhile, the BSI of non-manufacturing firms came to 73 for March, up from 70 for this month, BOK said.

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