Factory activity shrinks for 13th straight month in July

Factories in the industrial district of Jurong in Singapore.
Factories in the industrial district of Jurong in Singapore. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Factory activity shrank for the 13th straight month in July as the lacklustre global economy continued to weigh on demand.

Elsewhere in the region, manufacturing performance remained patchy and economists are not optimistic about long-term prospects.

The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) here - an early indicator of manufacturing activity - came in at 49.3 last month, down slightly from the 49.6 reading in June. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

Last month's fall came on the back of shrinking domestic and export orders.

The employment index also slid - it has recorded contraction readings since November 2014 as manufacturers restructure their labour force, according to the PMI report.

The data is compiled by the Singapore Institute of Purchasing and Materials Management from a monthly poll of purchasing executives at about 150 industrial firms.

Manufacturing, which makes up a fifth of the economy, has been hit hard by tepid global growth and restructuring. The industry has been in recession for over a year, according to some economists.

There were some bright spots in the latest data, however.

The PMI for the electronics sector recorded a rise of 0.7 from the previous month, coming in at 49.7.

The slower rate of contraction was attributed to improved readings in new domestic and export orders, as well as production.

Anecdotal evidence also suggests more electronics manufacturers are becoming less pessimistic despite global uncertainties in major markets, the institute's report said.

In China, a private survey of factory - the Caixin Manufacturing PMI - bounced, but the official manufacturing PMI slipped back into contractionary territory.

India and Taiwan recorded expansionary PMI numbers, but manufacturers in Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia continue to cut production.