Singapore exports see biggest fall since 2016

18 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

SINGAPORE: Singapore's export growth returned to the negative zone in March, partly on the previous year’s high base, according to government agency Enterprise Singapore (ESG) on Wednesday.

Non-oil domestic exports sank 11.7 per cent year on year - the biggest fall since a 12 per cent fall in October 2016 and far worse than the median decline of 2.2 per cent predicted in a Bloomberg poll of private economists, who have also pointed to China’s economic slowdown, lacklustre chip demand and trade tensions as headwinds, report agencies.

This was against the 4.8 per cent export growth notched in February, which was revised mildly downwards from a preliminary figure of 4.9 per cent.

DBS senior economist Irvin Seah had said in a report just the previous day that there should be “some positive ‘payback’ in industrial production and export numbers in the coming months”, as manufacturing sentiment metrics in the region seemed to point to inventory restocking.

But the payback appears to not have been delivered, as exports of both electronic and non-electronic products fell in March. The three-month moving average, which has been negative since December 2018, showed a year-on-year drop of 6.4 per cent.

Exports “declined from the high base a year ago” overall, said ESG in its monthly report.

Electronic shipments shrank by the most since 2013, contracting by 26.7 per cent year on year last month after an 8.2 per cent drop in February. Save for November 2018, electronic export growth was negative year on year throughout 2018. The slump was led by disc media, as well as personal computers and integrated circuits.

United Overseas Bank economist Barnabas Gan said that, “with electronic exports contracting for 15 of the past 16 months, it does suggest that Singapore’s electronic cluster could remain weak for an extended period of time in tandem with the weakness in semiconductor demand and exports in the region”. He also said that an electronics recovery would “remain contingent on global trade tensions, demand for technology goods and consumer electronics”.