South Korea\'s economic growth will likely lose steam in 2012 from this year as the weakening global economic recovery is feared to make a dent in its exports, a private think tank said Tuesday. In its economic outlook for next year, Hyundai Research Institute (HRI) predicted the local economy will expand 4 percent in the coming year, which is lower than its 4.2 percent estimate for this year. HRI\'s prediction is much lower than the government\'s growth forecast of 4.8 percent for next year. The government expects the economy to grow 4.5 percent this year. The think tank attributed next year\'s economic slowdown largely to weakening exports, the main driver of the South Korean economy, Asia\'s fourth-largest. The country\'s overseas shipments are expected to grow 14 percent on-year in 2012 as a recovery in exports to emerging nations will likely be offset by a slowdown in demand for South Korean products from advanced economies. South Korea\'s imports are likely to grow 16 percent on-year in 2012 due mainly to high international materials costs, including oil prices, the think tank said. South Korea is the world\'s fifth-largest crude oil importer and relies entirely on imports for its oil needs. The HRI said the South Korean currency will likely keep appreciating against the U.S. dollar next year, rising to the 1,050-won level to the greenback on the U.S. unit\'s overall weakness, Seoul\'s sustained current account surplus and a continued inflow of foreign investment funds. The local currency closed at 1,077.3 won to the greenback on Friday, down 2.2 won from Thursday\'s close. The local financial markets were closed for the Chuseok holiday on Monday and Tuesday.