Exports stage surprise rebound in March: Analysts' take

Singapore's non-oil domestic exports (Nodx) defied economists' expectations to surge 18.5 per cent in March over the same month last year, the fastest pace in more than three years. Economists had expected non-oil domestic exports to contract 1.1. per cent over last year.

Shipments to all of Singapore's top 10 export markets, except Indonesia and Japan, rose in March, with the top three contributors to growth being the European Union, the United States and Malaysia, according to statistics released on Friday by International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.

This is what some economists are saying about the latest numbers.

Daniel Wilson, ANZ:

"The surge brought domestic shipments in the first quarter up 4.8 per cent over last year. First quarter growth will be revised higher next month, from the 2.1 per cent released earlier this week. However, we feel it is too early to extrapolate these results as a new trend."

Francis Tan, UOB:

"The strong export growth in Singapore for March was in stark contrast to the recent spate of poor export numbers across a number of Asian economies. For instance, countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia all reported declines in exports for the month of March.

We advise caution to be overly jubilant on Singapore's March export performance relative to these economies. The key reason is that the two main export segments (electronics and pharmaceuticals, comprising 23 per cent of overall Nodx in 2014) only saw strong year-on-year growth due to a very weak base in the same month a year ago."

Kit Wei Zheng, Citi:

"Whether the March data represents a break out from the see-saw in monthly trade and manufacturing remains to be seen. The tepid rise in "core" NODX...do not point to a strong pick up in underlying demand. Pharma exports are volatile, and new orders for marine and offshore engineering may not recover even if oil prices rise."